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Baggage pilferage irks Lanka expats

As if incidents of pilfering the baggage of workers returning from the Kingdom at Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) weren’t enough, passengers are now complaining of baggage being lost altogether at the other end.
The latest victim was Rohaan Samath, who lost one of his suitcases at the BIA when he arrived in Colombo via SriLankan Airlines.
Samath told Arab News that he lodged a complaint with the airlines, but after 21 days, has still not heard any word.
“We have traveled many times to Sri Lanka on Saudi Arabian Airlines and never lost a single bag,” the passenger said, blaming the island’s national carrier for its negligence in mishandling the baggage and possible thefts at Colombo airport. Samath has returned to Riyadh and had filed a claim for the loss of his baggage.
“Its not the money,” he said. “We take things from here to our loved ones and if we do not get it when we are in Colombo, what is the point?”
“It is disappointing that SriLankan Airlines does not go the extra mile to serve its passengers.”
Mohammed Mansur, a banker who returned from Colombo, said the airline’s service has deteriorated in recent times. “I have a frequent flyer card, which entitles me to business class check-in,” he said.
“Unfortunately, I was pushed into long economy class queues, both at Riyadh airport and at BIA,” Mansur said, adding that airline officials do not respect their own frequent flyer card.
This is despite the fact that Mansur holds a SriLankan Airlines ‘Smile’ classic card, as well as a ‘Oneworld-Ruby’ card. A returning housemaid from the Middle East, meanwhile, recently had SR7,000 worth of cash and gold stolen after she landed at Colombo airport.
She has lodged a complaint with the airport police that her bags had been stolen, presumably while they were being transferred from the flight to the baggage belt.
The BIA police said that they had arrested one suspect, but that another suspect had evaded arrest.
Police had recovered part of the stolen cash from the arrested suspect, while the gold has not been recovered yet.
Police sources said it was the third such incident this year and that there had been many incidents according to the suspects’ confession.
About seven suspects had been arrested so far this year and some of them had been bailed out after being produced in court. They stole anything and everything, from undergarments to mobile phones and cameras, from the baggage of arriving passengers at the airport. A Sri Lankan attached to a foreign mission in the Kingdom told Arab News that he lost his brand new laptop at the Colombo airport.
“I found my laptop missing upon opening the baggage at home, but I could not do anything since I had already left the airport,” he said.
Mohammed Ali said that during his last trip to Colombo, he found that his bag had been rummaged through and its contents thrown out onto the belt after finding nothing expensive inside.
“Airport authorities should carefully monitor the baggage handled by the porters,” he added.
The modus operandi is to identify an unlocked bag that comes via conveyor belt from the flight and gather around it when it reaches a certain point, from where it is taken out for loading and stolen from.
“Two to three porters stand guard while one steals,” an airport officer said.

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