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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

On the move: a case of lost luggage

The dislocating experience of having your bags "mishandled" can be mitigated by keeping your baggage tags safe and filing a report before clearing the airport

Both customers and airport staff should make sure luggage is properly tagged. Rosemary Behan
Both customers and airport staff should make sure luggage is properly tagged. Rosemary Behan

It’s a sinking feeling. You have waited and watched as your fellow passengers collect their bags and wheel them away on their luggage trolleys. A few remaining bags make several rounds, then the carousel grinds to a halt.

It's been a while since this has happened to me, but on this occasion, I’m not alone. At least seven other passengers are without their luggage. A member of the Marrakech baggage staff is also worryingly expressionless. “Finit,” he says. He points to an office at the other end of the arrivals hall. Suddenly, all the excitement of arriving at this beautiful new airport has evaporated. It’s a Sunday, and I have a packed schedule of business meetings ahead. I’m dressed in a T-shirt, casual trousers and flip-flops, and I’m heading to the mountains for one night before the work starts.

Perhaps alarm bells should have started ringing earlier – when the Royal Air Maroc check-in agent took time to fix her hair before failing to find my reservation on her system, for example, or when the transfer bus from the gate failed to fit all of us on it and about 10 of us faced a standing wait. Ultimately, I realised, this 45-minute direct flight from Casablanca to Marrakech was cheap but unnecessary: a taxi would have been just as quick and less stressful.

The first rules of luggage management are to keep your baggage tags safe (these are the ultimate proof that the airline has your bag and is responsible for it) and to fill out a report of any missing luggage before you clear customs.

Your luggage receipt is proof that the airline has your bag and is responsible for it. Rosemary Behan
Your luggage receipt is proof that the airline has your bag and is responsible for it. Rosemary Behan

Under the Montreal Convention, airlines are obliged to pay compensation for damaged, delayed or lost luggage. So despite the fact that a driver is waiting to take me to Sir Richard Branson’s luxury retreat in the Atlas Mountains, I first have to stand in a queue for an unapologetic man to log the incident in his computer.

Some people, who have transferred in Casablanca, have received some of their luggage but not all of it. The agent traces their bags and tells them to come back tomorrow. When it comes to mine, he looks worried. It isn’t showing in the system at all. The whole point of the barcode system is to trace bags from point to point through their journey, so the lack of one suggests the bag is completely missing: stolen, perhaps, or simply lost, without its tag. As I’m handed a piece of paper and told to wait for a text message, I don’t hold out much hope.

I head to Kasbah Tamadot with only the clothes I’m standing in. No clean underwear, no nightwear, no toiletries, no walking shoes, no bikini to enjoy the swimming pool.

I borrow some shoes and hike to a local Berber village to shop for clothes. It’s funny, and not. At the hotel, a staff member calls the airport’s lost-luggage department but no-one picks up. During the course of 12 hours, she spends two more hours trying to get through.

After constant chasing, my bag is returned 24 hours later. Luckily, I had also tagged it with my name and details. I have to go back to Marrakech airport, through two layers of security and several more queues to get it. But at this point, I’m strangely grateful.

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Read more:

On the move: tips for visiting Casablanca

Three new travel trends for 2017

My favourite reads: Rosemary Behan

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