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Suvarnabhumi steps up baggage protection

Passenger complaints prompt improvements

Police and the management of Suvarnabhumi airport are stepping up measures to protect the luggage of passengers following complaints about luggage being damaged and possible dodgy handling of baggage.

The move comes after a female passenger identified as Montakan Tangsanga warned other passengers on Facebook not to put valuable items in checked-in luggage out of concerns about luggage theft.

Officials, however, insist Ms Montakan's luggage remained intact during the baggage-handling process at Suvarnabhumi airport.

Ms Montakan claimed she had had a padlock on her travel bag broken during a recent trip from Suvarnabhumi airport to Okinawa.

She and her friends were travelling with Peach Aviation on MM990 on the night of Feb 26. She said while nothing was missing from her baggage, she found a watch that did not belong to her in the bag. She lodged a complaint with various parties including police at the airport.

Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn Prousoontorn, commissioner of the Immigration Bureau, said officials met to discuss growing concerns about luggage theft following Ms Montakan's charge.

He said the meeting has come up with guidelines that could help solve the problem, while some 100 plainclothes inspectors will be deployed to improve security.

However, the commissioner said Ms Montakan's case is unlikely to concern theft.

Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn said he talked to the Japanese immigration office and it is possible the bag was opened for inspection.

He noted that in several countries, including Japan and South Korea, airport officials are allowed to open luggage for inspection without permission from their owners if they are suspicious.

He called on passengers not to keep their valuables in checked baggage to avoid losses. However, he said passengers who need to keep their valuable items in checked luggage can ask the airport to use plastic wrap to secure their bags for a fee. This might prevent ill-intentioned people from opening the bag as it will take longer.

He advised passengers also keep receipts so they can claim compensation if a damage or loss is incurred.

Sirote Duangratana, Suvarnabhumi airport's general manager, said the airport has advised two firms responsible for ground handling services to make sure their baggage handlers are strictly following regulations.

Thai Airways International (THAI) and Bangkok Flight Services (BFS) have been told to keep their ground handling up to standard or they may have their contracts terminated, he said. Airports of Thailand Co, Ltd is preparing to set up an affiliate company to specifically provide ground handling. The process is expected to take about two years.

According to Mr Sirote, luggage theft brings shame to the airport and to the country. Commenting on the case, Mr Sirote said the airport received the complaint on March 1 from three passengers including Ms Montakan who demanded compensation for the damaged luggage.

He said that airport officials have reviewed security cameras and found nothing unusual while the luggage was on the conveyor belt. The luggage was later handled by BFS staff before being loaded onto the aircraft.

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