Acsa questioned on luggage conveyor blind spots

2014-02-12 08:30

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If News24 travel reader complaints are anything to go by, baggage tampering is rife and passengers are being left feeling "violated and undervalued". 

While this is not the first time the issue has been brought to light, the recent outpouring of complaints were sparked by a YouTube video allegedly showing ground staff tampering with bags being loaded onto a plane.

Watch the video here*

Comair, the local subsidiary of British Airways regional flights in South Africa has since responded to the claims, stating that "the person seen in the video is a Bidvest security employee who was legitimately handling the bag after it had opened while loading". The airline also said this was a common occurrence and security staff intervene to ensure no further damage takes place.

Read Comair's full response here

In light of the complaints we asked Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) and domestic airlines about the number of reported incidents they received and what measures are being taken to stop criminal activity when it comes to passengers'check-in luggage.

Comair, SAA and Mango have not responded as yet.

Read what Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) spokesperson for Cape Town International Deirdre Davids had to say in response to the following questions.

What are the latest stats around baggage theft and tampering?

Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) spokesperson Deirdre Davids: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) global industry standard for a mishandled bag is 4 bags for every 1 000 passengers processed.

Sita Worldtracer, a company that studies global trends and reports on baggage performance, reported 0.59 mishandled bags for Cape Town Airport in the 3rd quarter of 2013 (we’re still awaiting the last quarter results).

Mishandled baggage falls into broadly four categories: - delayed (put on a later flight)
- damaged
- items missing from the baggage
- lost or missing in its entirety.

You may also be interested in Passenger Rights - Lost Luggage

What is being done to improve the security and situation as we’ve had a number of complaints submitted to us since the video of alleged baggage tampering at Cape Town International Airport?

Acsa spokesperson Deirdre Davids: There are a variety of measures in place to limit baggage tampering. A special baggage task team made up of the airlines, ground handlers, SAPS as well as ourselves has been created with the primary focus of baggage pilferage reduction.

To name a few other measures there is limited access to the baggage hall, search on entry and exit processes and CCTV surveillance. In some instances airlines put in place additional security at the flights. Soon we will see the introduction of a sterile facility where staff members will leave all personal belongings before being screened and gaining access to the restricted area through a central security point.

Although Acsa’s primary responsibility is the availability of infrastructure, including the baggage sorter, while the airlines together with the handling company manage the baggage processes, as an airport fraternity we have taken the approach of working together to mitigate baggage pilferage.

When will this "sterile facility" be put in place? 

Acsa spokesperson Deirdre Davids: This additional locker facility is in place at both Cape Town International and OR Tambo on the air side. The plan is to implement on the land side of the airport as well, which is already in place at OR Tambo International. These are added measures and keep in mind you must pass through a security screening (search)  point with a valid permit before moving onto the airside – so it is already a highly regulated environment.

A number of readers have complained about blind spots in CCTV footage shown to them after reporting a baggage theft incident. Can you clarify how cameras are positioned and if they’re optimised to avoid these blind spots?

Acsa spokesperson Deirdre Davids:
An initial design is undertaken when the placement of camera’s are determined. This is informed by the flow of the bags on the baggage sorter, the collection by vehicle or by hand from the baggage handler i.e. the area of bag and human interface. To make sure that we optimise the placement of camera’s a review is done as and when deemed required. The focus is largely on areas where human intervention is possible. Remember the bags are moving along a baggage sorter.

Can you confirm the course of action a passenger should take if they need to report an incident and make a claim?

Acsa spokesperson Deirdre Davids:
Via the Airline, the passenger will be required to complete a claim form and include a police case number. Passengers are requested to please follow through and do so, that the airlines can trigger the necessary steps.

Acsa asked passengers to report any sinister or suspicious behavior observed as soon as possible.

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*Since this article was initially published the original video and YouTube account has been deleted.
Read more on:    acsa  |  cape town  |  johannesburg  |  flights  |  travel south africa  |  lifestyle

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