Baggage Woes

July 05, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

With the increasing airfares and decreasing baggage allowances in India, the airline industry is minting money more than ever. Now with stricter norms on baggage and excess baggage fee, are these airlines also cheating its customers by rigging their weighing scales? Even a kilo or two extra means more than just a couple of hundreds which when accumulated for the number of passengers who do fly on a daily basis would definitely amount to a lot. 

I am not basing this on a frivolous assumption. I happened to take a flight from New York to Lucknow for my summer vacations. New York to New Delhi was an International Airlines and from New Delhi onwards it was Jet Airways. My journey started at the Newark Liberty airport where my check-in bags were way within the limits but my hand baggage was 2.5 kgs more than the allowed 10 kg allowance for International Flights. Since it was only photography equipment that I had, which could not go into the checked bags, the person at the counter let me take it with me. I must have thanked her several times for accommodating my request. It was a pleasant flight till New Delhi with no hassle at all. 

At the Indira Gandhi International Airport, I grabbed my bags and went for weighing again for the domestic sector airline from New Delhi to Lucknow. The domestic airline had assured to accommodate the international baggage allowance if the booking was made in the same ticket so there was no arguing over the excess baggage there. Since my checked bags were way within the limits, I did not care much to look at the scale. But when my cabin bag was weighed, I was taken aback by the number I saw on the monitor. It was 18.6 kgs. The exact same bag that weighed 12.5 kgs at Newark Airport was now around 5 kgs heavier in Delhi. Is it the time difference or the pollution in Delhi that attributed to these extra 4 kgs ! Or maybe just the fact that we live in a country where we try to cheat one another in any way possible ! 

Anyways, I pointed that out to the person at the desk. He became a little fidgety and took the bag to another scale for weighing, after following their usual protocol of apologizing for the inconvenience caused. When he removed my bag, I noticed that the scale was already showing 2.8 kgs even without any weight on it. Definitely the pollution in the air ! However, on the other scale my bag weighed 14 kgs which was still about 1.5 kgs extra from what it weighed in Newark but it is acceptable considering the scale to scale calibrating difference. Following this fiasco and having been in an uncomfortable situation, the person at the counter very conveniently shifted the blame to GMR (Airport Managing Authority) for not properly calibrating the scales. 

I let it go at that time since I was severely jet-lagged and tired from the long journey. Once I got back home, I dropped an email to the concerned authorities at the airlines and also the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) . Despite giving them a scan of my boarding pass and ticket number, they were unable to locate my travel details and the person who checked me in. Surprises me for the lax security that they do not keep track of passengers flying on their aircraft. What more evidence is required than a boarding pass and ticket number to locate a passenger? Anyways, the Jet authorities also transferred the blame to GMR for the scales, or so we have been trained in this blame transfer game ! I also got the assurance that the GMR has been informed of the incident. All in all the result was nothing even after several email exchanges. At least the airlines took the pain of replying to my emails whereas the DGCA remained immune to this incident.

However, my concern is that even if the airport authority is responsible for the scales, should the airlines not inform them if there is any discrepancy in the scales. The person at the counter was happily sitting failing to inform the concerned authorities despite knowing about it, until a customer pointed it out. I usually weigh my bags at home before traveling and they ALWAYS weigh more at the airport. Is there anything that can be done to stop this corruption? Can we easily let go of this difference of even a kilo especially when these airlines are cashing so heavily on it?



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