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Air travel: A mixed bag

The airline staff gave me my baggage even as I handed over the bag, which I erroneously took, to its rightful owner, who was also an elderly gentleman, profusely apologising for the faux pas.
Last Updated : 29 February 2024, 20:05 IST
Last Updated : 29 February 2024, 20:05 IST

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Air passengers are no strangers to delayed, damaged, or lost baggage. However, my experience last April was unique. My wife and I were returning to Chennai from New Delhi after a short visit to our daughter’s home. Our son-in-law (SIL) had booked our flight tickets. As both of us were senior citizens, SIL, who accompanied us to the airport, repeatedly advised us to be careful during our journey. I assured him with hubris that we had been travelling for many years and would be able to manage ourselves.

We had a green suitcase weighing about 12 kg and a black carry-on bag weighing about 6 kg. The airline staff at the counter suggested checking in the handbag for added comfort during travel, and I agreed. As was my habit, I locked the bag with a small yellow padlock and tied a red ribbon around the handle for easy identification.

On landing at Chennai airport, we proceeded to the baggage reclaim area, where the carousel was already in motion. An airport worker offered to assist us, and as I pointed to a green suitcase on the conveyor belt, he swiftly pulled it out. It had on its tag my name and the baggage number as per the token. Asking him to remove it, I pulled out the black handbag with the red ribbon and yellow padlock, which was just behind the box.

As we boarded the taxi, the assistant was quick to shove the baggage into the boot. I called my son-in-law and informed him that we were heading home and that everything was okay. After a few minutes, he called me frantically and announced that things were not okay, as I was carrying someone else’s bag, and that I should return to the airport immediately and contact the airline’s office in the departure area.

I was startled for a moment, but I composed myself. I stopped the taxi and found in the boot a bag identical to mine with a red ribbon and yellow padlock, as well as a tag that contained a different name and number. I realised my blunder. The taxi driver obligingly drove us back to the airport. The airline staff gave me my baggage even as I handed over the bag, which I erroneously took, to its rightful owner, who was also an elderly gentleman, profusely apologising for the faux pas. He graciously avoided making any fuss. On the other hand, he was sorry that I had to return to the airport to hand over his bag. He explained that he had some essential medicines in his bag and that he could not afford to wait for the problem to be sorted out by the airlines, which would take at least two or three days.

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Published 29 February 2024, 20:05 IST

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