Additional flight planned to resolve the problem

Transport: The national airline, Drukair, has been subjected to public criticism following a large amount of passenger baggage offloaded and left behind in Bangkok over the past few days.

As of February 2, the airline had 400 pieces of luggage weighing approximately 5,000kgs remaining at Suvarnabhumi international airport in Thailand, according to Drukair commercial general manager, Ugen Tashi.

The total number of passengers affected could not be provided by the airline because the number changes on a daily basis.

The situation even prompted Drukair to issue a public apology on social media. It attributes an “acute space problem” being experienced on Bangkok to Paro flights. It assures passengers that one “priority baggage” would be delivered on the same flight.

The airline also points out that four additional flights, exclusively to bring cargo and offloaded baggage have been planned for February 6, 11, 19 and 26.

Some of the airline’s passengers have taken to social media to air their grievances.

One of the complainants alleged that only the baggage of Bhutanese passengers were being offloaded, some after even having it checked-in and loaded onto the aircraft. It is also alleged that some did not even have their one “priority baggage” delivered on the same flight.

Another complaint was that while tourists were being compensated for their delayed baggage, Bhutanese were not.

Kuensel could not confirm the veracity of these allegations.

“Drukair offloads our luggage without our knowledge then they informed us that they don’t know when our luggage will arrive,” said a Bhutanese passenger, speaking to Kuensel on condition of anonymity. “As per any airline in the world we are entitled for one luggage and if they offload we get compensation and luggage are sent next day,” said the passenger who had recently travelled back from Bangkok.

On whether compensation would be provided, Ugen Tashi said that the airline will study each claim on its merit and will act as per terms of carriage.

“On an average 50-60 pieces of luggage get offloaded on every flight,” Ugen Tashi said. “However, Drukair does try to ensure that the day’s offloaded baggage is sent the next day unless the size of the baggage is too big,” he added. “Drukair also has started ensuring that one priority tagged baggage arrives on the same flight,” he said. “Most of these offloaded baggage are either huge sized boxes, TV or bundled quilts.”

Ugen Tashi pointed out that this situation is not common with other airlines but unique only to Drukair especially during winter when a majority of urban Bhutanese travel to Bangkok on vacation. He added that the problem is further compounded as a result of Drukair’s increased baggage allowance from 20kg per person to 30kg per person. Another contributing factor is Drukair’s Happiness Reward Programme that allows a passenger another 10kg when a used boarding pass on the same sector is provided.

The airline is attempting to clear the backlog. “The fact that we are operating four additional baggage and cargo flights in February to clear the backlog baggage and cargo is Drukair’s commitment towards providing better customer service,” Ugen Tashi said. “Our service to our customers during these last few flights may not have reflected the usual levels of service we pride ourselves of, but Drukair would like to assure all our customers that every effort will be taken to minimize the wait of being reunited with their belongings at the earliest.”

The airline has also been facing its own problems as a result. Finding storage space to hold offloaded baggage in Bangkok, costs associated with renting storage space and having to operate additional flights, and dealing with affected customers, are some of the challenges being faced by the airline.

Gyalsten K Dorji