Bag tampering surges at OR Tambo

AGENTS canvassed on Travelinfo’s Facebook group, Openjaw, have been reporting a surge in baggage tampering at OR Tambo.

Sarah Margison, Manager of Harvey World Travel Shelly Beach, has had two instances this month of her clients’ baggage being tampered with. The first occurred when 15 of Margison’s clients flying back to Johannesburg from Durban, had wrapped their bags with plastic. The plastic was removed, zippers were cut and bags were rifled through. The second incident happened when a client flew from Johannesburg to Mauritius and, on arrival at their hotel, found the locks of their bag cut, plastic packets torn and toiletry bags opened.

Yumna Kharodia, owner of Sweet Life Travel, has also had instances of clients experiencing bag tampering and theft in the last month. Clients travelling to India and Bangladesh from OR Tambo have had valuables stolen from their bags. Kharodia says clients come to her after attempts to contact the airline are unsuccessful. She says: ‘Clients fill in claims forms from the airline but very rarely hear anything back.’

Airlines don’t have their own resources on the ground, so when a passenger checks in a bag, it becomes the responsibility of the ground baggage handlers, says Abel Alemu, Regional Manager of Ethiopian Airlines. He says when a passenger reports bag tampering or damage, the passenger will be referred to Ethiopian’s customer service department, who will liaise with the passenger and offer compensation based on the particulars of the case.

Alemu recommends that passengers who notice that their bags have been tampered with should open a claim with the airline before they leave the airport and, if the baggage damage is outwardly visible, passengers should leave it on the carousel and notify airline staff. Should passengers flying Qantas leave the airport before they notice any damage, they have seven days to report it to Qantas, says Michi Messner, the airline’s Regional Manager Africa.

Kirby Gordon, Head of Sales and Distribution at FlySafair, says instances of bag tampering and damage are generally higher at OR Tambo than other airports in SA, but he suspects this may be due to the higher volumes of people going through the airport. Gordon adds that people flying through Johannesburg tend to take out travel insurance at a higher rate than other transit cities.

OR Tambo declined to comment, but said a media briefing on baggage handling would be held in the coming weeks.

In 2018, Minister of Transport, Blade Nzimande, asked his department to look into complaints of bag tampering and theft at OR Tambo.

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