Travel diaries

Rough handling of luggage by the flight cargo crew can land us in a ‘Catch - 22’ situation

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Seeing the new generation of ultra light weight, four wheeled, synthetic suitcases that can be manoeuvred 360 degrees with utmost ease, I am reminded of the cumbersome steel travelling trunk of yesteryears, to carry which one almost needed six pack abs. 

As porters and passengers jostled around with hefty trunks in train compartments, one could incessantly hear agonizing cries of ‘Ooo, ahhh, ooucch’ as the sharp metallic edges of the trunks brushed and bruised various parts of human bodies of fellow travellers. 

As a 16-year old, when I received honorarium for my first publication, I was ecstatic and at once used it to purchase a moulded luggage that was my obsession then. The suitcase stayed with me for three decades until it was heavily damaged by a transporter during one of our many house-shifting exploits. But suitcases damaged in the rough and tumble of handling by the flight cargo systems and crew can land us in a ‘Catch- 22’ situation, as I realised once at an airport in Finland. 

A business associate and I had boarded a flight at a town called Sundsvall in Sweden and travelled to Joensuu in Finland, changing two flights in between - one at Stockholm in Sweden and the other at Helsinki in Finland.  I carried with me a large moulded suitcase, which I must admit was not one of a superior quality.  

The luggage was loaded at the origin for delivery at the final destination.  As I waited at the baggage collection area of Joensuu’s small airport, I was shocked to find some of my clothes slithering on the carousel.  I couldn’t decide whether to let go off them or scramble and collect them.  Then sprang up my suitcase, ripped apart and widely exposed at its belly.  I gathered it with deep embarrassment. 

We walked to a lady officer at the airport and reported the damage.  Glancing at my suitcase, she said, “I am ashamed this has happened to you with our airways.” Without any question, she wrote and handed me an airline voucher addressed to their authorised outlet. 

We drove out of the airport to the store and I chose a brand new Samsonite suitcase of equivalent size as free damage replacement.  I was touched by the attitude of the officer and the airways.  

On my return leg the next day, at the boarding section, I placed my new found beauty as check-in piece with immense pride. God, what a contrasting moment it was to collecting bits and pieces of luggage and the contents thereof, just the previous day.  

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