Mumbai airport authorities refuse airline's request to return US passenger's luggage

British Airways approached officials of Mumbai International Airport Ltd yesterday, but they refused to clear the luggage; the US national was sent back to London for lack of proper visa and bullets were found in his luggage on Sunday

British Airways is struggling to send the luggage, belonging to a deported passenger, back to London. The US national had been sent back to London after arriving in Mumbai for travelling without a proper visa, and three live bullets had been found in his check-in baggage on Sunday.

Representational picture
Representational picture

mid-day had reported the incident yesterday (‘Bullets found in deported American’s luggage’), detailing how Joseph Michael Costyn, a US national, had arrived in Mumbai on December 5 by British Airways flight BA-199.

mid-day’s front page report on December 15
mid-day’s front page report on December 15

As soon as Immigration officials noticed his visa documentation was not proper, he was sent back to London by flight BA-198, departing for London at 1.45 pm on the same day. When the passenger contacted the airline on Sunday asking for his luggage to be returned, airport officials screened the bag and found three live 9-mm bullets.

The dilemma
The British airline is now stuck with the bag, and doesn’t know how to send it to its owner. The airline approached the Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) to clear the luggage yesterday, but the latter refused to do so.

An airport official close to the developments said, “The airline had approached the airport management authorities for getting the luggage belonging to the passenger, who is reportedly a lawyer, cleared. But the management did give them the clearance.

According to the management, a detailed report about the incident needs to be submitted, after which they may allow the airline to send it back to London.” It should be noted that the registered in-line screening of the baggage is taken care of by the management and, hence, clearance by GVK-MIAL is of great importance.

The airline also met the Sahar police, but in vain as they didn’t take the complaint. Prashant Marde, senior inspector of Sahar police station, said, “Any complaint is registered when the accused is either caught in action or when something has been found from him.

In this case, the passenger was already Refused To Land (RTL) and was sent back the same day. It cannot be established whether the three live bullets found from his luggage were kept by him or had been placed by a third person. As a result, no complaint can be taken.”

Airline speak
On being asked why the baggage had not been screened when the passenger was sent back, a British Airways spokesperson replied 24 hours later and said, “Please refer all queries to the local police, as the matter is currently under investigation.”

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