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Caught on Camera: Touts at Mumbai airport demand USD 20 for a trolley

Unsuspecting passengers at T2 are asked to shell out big bucks, often in foreign currency, just to be dropped to the exit gate; the touts are airline and airport staffers themselves

Touted as a swanky, one-of-its-kind terminal, it turns out even T2 isn’t immune to the touting problem. And, a unique one at that.

The touts here are not from outside, as is usually the case, but airport and airline staffers themselves. They make unsuspecting passengers shell out as much as $20 (Rs 1,200) just to drop them to the exit gate.

Also read: Pay Rs 110 for a two-minute parking at T2

This man asked for $20 to transport luggage to the exit
This man asked for $20 to transport luggage to the exit

Modus operandi
“Some airline staffers hide a set of trolleys, so that the passengers can’t find them. The passengers then approach the staffers, who offer to find a trolley and drop them to their vehicles in exchange for an amount picked at random, usually around $20.

There is a shortage of trolleys at the luggage conveyor belts in the arrival lounge. Pic for representation
There is a shortage of trolleys at the luggage conveyor belts in the arrival lounge. Pic for representation

Left with no choice, and also because they trust that an airline or airport staffer wouldn’t try to loot them, the passengers tend to agree,” said a loader from the arrivals section.

Also read: Mumbai auto drivers fleece passengers at T2 with 'entry fee'

“Passengers, both Indian and foreign, who come to the terminal for the first time usually fall for this trap, thinking maybe this is how it works. Touting was common at the old terminal and it is sad to see it making its way, and that too by staff themselves, to the new terminal,” said an airport official.

'Happens often'
A customs official, on condition of anonymity, said that passengers have complained often about staffers trying to extract money from them on the pretext of finding them a trolley and escorting them to the exit or their vehicles. “These are usually loaders and people in charge of managing the trolleys. In fact, we caught one such person a few days back and, when we checked his pockets, we discovered several notes in various currencies. When passengers complain to us, we inform the department heads about it.”

First-person account
A tout at T2 tried to extract money from mid-day reporter Vedika Chaubey as well, and she managed to capture the incident on camera. Here’s her account:

I landed at T2 on June 7 from AI-130 around 4.15 am. When I cleared the customs and was waiting for my baggage, I saw 10-15 people wearing grey t-shirts and black trousers, approaching passengers and offering to drop them at the exit gate.

When I got my luggage, I started hunting for a trolley, but couldn’t find one anywhere. I approached a staff member, but instead of helping me find a trolley, he suggested that I pay $20 and he would escort us to our vehicle. He said he worked at the airport.

I was shocked and decided to ask someone else. The man, however, followed me and offered to lower the asking price.

When I told another staff member, in a different uniform, about the incident, he said, “It’s easy, especially for foreigners, to pay $20 and get someone to find trolleys for them and escort them out when they are coming to India for the first time. Some unscrupulous staff members figured this out and decided to hide trolleys, so that more people approach them. Even Indians are looted this way.”

It took me about half an hour to locate two trolleys, which were hidden away in a corner near belt number 10.

The other side
A Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) spokesperson said, “The terminal has dedicated resources in the arrivals section to ensure the arrival process is smooth, expeditious and safe. We have adequate trolleys, considering the passenger load. We also centrally monitor the arrival baggage claim area and advise floor managers if we see that there is a shortage of trolleys.”

“With regard to touting, we request passengers to immediately inform the nearest CISF staff member or the airport manager in case any loader or staffer approaches them with unsolicited demands at arrivals. In such cases, the CISF can take immediate action, and hands them over to the local police. The CISF control room gets the CCTV feed from various parts of the airport and their staff has also been instructed to monitor touting activities,” he added.

Smile, you’re on camera
2,300: The number of CCTV cameras at Terminal 2, which is spread over 1,400 acres

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