Mangaluru: Travelling by flight can sometimes be a stressful process- catching a taxi to the airport, reaching on time, checking in, going through security, dealing with the occasional cranky baby etc. However, when your baggage goes missing, it can quickly turn your already stressful trip into a nightmare!
While scores of bags are lost or misplaced every year, the apathy or uncooperativeness of airline staff can really make things worse for a passenger who is already distressed.
Diana Fernandes is one such traveller whose seemingly routine flight turned into a waking nightmare when her flight to Bengaluru departed from Mangaluru, leaving one of her luggage bags behind.
Speaking to Newskarnataka.com in an email, Diana, who had travelled to Bengaluru to catch a connecting flight to the USA, stated that her luggage did not arrive with her at the Kempegowda International Airport.
“The Spicejet staff at the Bangalore Airport, could not locate it (luggage). However I filed an irregularity report at their desk. I paid excess baggage online, a sum of 107 dollars. In addition I was charged a sum of Rs.3600/- at the Mangalore airport. Needless to say, I had to leave for Illinois US, without my luggage and with no knowledge of my lost luggage,” she wrote.
She added that she had been on call every day, for three to four hours, to get her issue resolved since November 3. She says, "SpiceJet has neither officially acknowledged their error and apologized for the distress, inconvenience caused and the loss of my work hours devoted to tracking my luggage and its restoration, nor have they taken credible measures to stand accountable, neither compensated nor refunded the excess baggage fee charged ”.
She continued, “Their (SpiceJet) customer service has been appalling and deplorable. The Spicejet airline has been passing the buck. The trail of mail copied to the concerned parties has gone cold… In spite of my repeated pleas, I have only encountered apathy, evasiveness, ineptness and lack of application and attention from their Senior Executives...
“...I am bereft of options as to whom to turn to. I am still without my essentials from the lost luggage.”
She, however, said that only one member of SpiceJet Airlines' staff was "kind enough" to hear them out and was "proactive". "But I see that he has his limitations as he was not able to get a resolution from the management," she added.
Diana now wants an apology and compensation for SpiceJet Airlines’ negligence, holding her baggage in their custody for 10 days and later handing it over to her relative instead of herself, for the distress it has caused her and the international calls, as well as a refund of the excess baggage fees charged.
Not the first time, but hopefully the last
Charmaine Fernandes, Diana’s niece informed Newskarnataka that this was the second time during the same trip that SpiceJet had misplaced her aunt's luggage.
According to her, when Diana was flying from Bengaluru to Mangaluru on October 17, on her way from the USA, one of her bags was held back at KIA. She wasn’t apprised of this and so she spent a lot of time at the Mangaluru airport, looking for a bag that never even left Bengaluru. When she noticed that everyone was leaving and that only one or two bags were on the conveyer belt, she sought out the SpiceJet staff and enquired about her luggage. She was then told that her luggage was held back because there was a power bank in it. Diana was taken aback as she did not carry a power bank with her on the trip. She was later informed that her luggage was held back due to staff error.
"They (the SpiceJet staff) took the whole matter in a very casual way. When my aunt enquired about her luggage after they misplaced it the first time, they very casually said that it was probably 'still in Bengaluru'," Charmaine said.
As she was still in India, Diana was able to receive her luggage. However, when the luggage arrived at the Mangaluru airport, they called her and asked her to pick it up. "We clearly told them (the SpiceJet staff) that the luggage was misplaced due to their own error and that they should deliver it to us. It was not through any fault of my aunt's that her baggage was misplaced," Charmaine added.
Baggage found, but still continents away from the owner
Charmaine said that a little more than a week after the luggage went missing, SpiceJet informed Diana that her bag was found in Mumbai. "My aunt told them to forward the bag to her in the US, but they refused to do so. She told them that it is their fault that her luggage went missing and that it is their responsibility to get it to her. They refused and said that they needed an Indian address. As my aunt is an American citizen and does not have an address here, she gave them my address," she said.
Once the bag reached Mangaluru, a staffer called Charmaine to enquire about the address. When the bag was being delivered, she got a call from the driver who was surprised to see that he is delivering another misplaced bag to the same address. "It was the same driver who delivered my aunt's bag the first time they (SpiceJet) misplaced it. The driver himself asked me if it is the same address to which he had delivered a bag just a few days prior. When I said 'yes', he responded by asking me 'they misplaced the bag again?'" she added.
By the time Charmaine received her aunt's bag, she had already written to the DGCA. She was asked to file a complaint with AirSewa (a government website for travellers to submit grievances and seek information on air travel in India). She received an update stating that the matter is being investigated and that she would receive a response by December 4.
"Before receiving the bag, I posted about our situation on social media, trying to warn the public about SpiceJet's callous attitude and casual approach to grievances. I posted some of the emails, about the situation, the callousness of the staff and the amount of money my aunt spent on the excess baggage charges, as well as the numerous international phone calls with customer care that lasted for hours. After I received the bag sans apology or compensation, I posted on a different social media platform about the incident and tagged SpiceJet as well as the DGCA," Charmaine explained.
After Charmaine took to social media, she got a response from the company; a reply that was utterly inadequate. "I got an email that said 'since the baggage has reached the owner, no compensation will be paid'. I was shocked. I replied back to the email, stating the baggage was still not handed over to the passenger/guest according to their terms, but to a relative who was not their guest. I also informed them that we would be apprising the DGCA and approaching the consumer forum. The following day I received a call from an executive from their nodal office (who earlier never bothered to reply to any of the mails we had written to them) stating that, as per their company policy, they do not compensate for delays or loss of baggage. I was surprised when I heard this since the DGCA website states that compensation should be paid to the customer in case of loss or delay of baggage by an airline in accordance with the law. I told her the baggage was still not handed over to my aunt who is the rightful owner. I also told her that I had spoken to a lawyer who clearly told me that my aunt could approach the consumer court for compensation. When she heard this, she told me even though they do not pay for loss or delay of baggage, they will look into this case. She also asked me what compensation we were looking for. I told her to work out a figure as stated by the law and get back to us," she said.
"Since then, we have not got any response from SpiceJet," she added.
(According to the provisions of the Carriage by Air Act of 1972, an airline is liable to compensate a passenger in case of loss, damage or delayed baggage)
Charmaine opined that for an airline it might just be luggage lost or delayed, but that is not the case for passengers who carry stuff that is expensive or having emotional or sentimental value. "What if someone is getting married and their wedding dress is in the bag? What if they are carrying things that have sentimental value? It is true that bags get lost, but what makes the experience worse is the inconsiderate attitude of the airline staff," she said.
Speaking about her experience, Diana said that, initially, she felt shocked and anger over the Airline staff’s "smug apathy". “Now it has transitioned more into acceptance,” she said.
“My niece has been advocating fiercely and with feistiness. The latest update from them (SpiceJet) is that they are working on it and will seek a resolution.
Newskarnataka was unable to get a comment from SpiceJet on the issue.
On November 20, in reply to her complaint filed with AirSewa, Charmaine received a message from SpiceJet informing her that the complaint has been closed and the USD 107.80 that her aunt had paid during her online check-in would be refunded back to her card. As the excess baggage fee was paid in cash, they will be refunding the amount through online fund transfer.
There is, however, no mention of any compensation for the trouble caused, neither have they provided a solution to transport the luggage back to its rightful owner.
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