Comair winning the war on baggage pilfering

Less than 0.02% of bags interfered with on Comair flights

Johannesburg: Comair Limited, operator of British Airways in Southern Africa and, is tackling the scourge of baggage pilfering head-on. Improved results indicate less than one bag per 5 000 bags carried on Comair flights, is being pilfered.

Other domestic airlines within South Africa are reporting pilfering rates of 0.6 bags per 1 000, while international averages are around 0.3 bags per 
1 000 at global airports. Working closely with partner Bidair Ramp Handling Services, Comair has attributed its success to a real time management process and a zero tolerance approach which has significantly reduced the occurrences.

Gidon Novick, Joint CEO of Comair said, "Comair, working closely with Bidair Ramp Handling Services Management have successfully implemented several joint initiatives to eliminate pilfering of the bags on our local and regional British Airways and kulula flights. It is important to know, we take full responsibility for our customers' bags and don't just blame the Airports Company."

Kobus van Niekerk, Managing Director of Bidair said that Bidair's general managers and operations director are all collectively and personally responsible for monitoring the departure and arrival of every flight in real time, done by live BlackBerry communication between themselves and 
Comair, 24 hours a day.

Some of the steps that Comair and Bidair have taken to address baggage pilfering include:

  • G4S Contract Security, Bidair risk managers and Comair ramp controllers physically monitor the loading and offloading of baggage, as well as monitoring baggage in the basements after check-in and on arrival.
  • Irregularity forms are completed after every departure and arrival and immediately e-mailed to all senior staff. In the case of any open bag, unzipped bag, damaged bag, damaged cable ties or broken locks in the hold, or any sign of any irregularity, an immediate investigation takes place.
  • If an irregularity is found, baggage handlers, their restroom and lockers are searched both at the departure and arrival airports. Staff at the departure as well as the arrival airports, face disciplinary action and polygraph testing if warranted.
  • Baggage handlers are required to use thick gloves in the hold, so it is not easy to feel inside bags for small items. They face serious disciplinary action if found without them. Baggage handlers also have to exit the hold immediately after loading each trolley of baggage.
  • Airport staff, cable-tie any bags with main zips left open and close all other side zips if there is nothing contained in the side pockets. Any bag with a defective locking device or any observed damages will be labelled with a limited liability tag, signed by the customer at check-in, noting this fault.
  • Comair is also working with ACSA to ensure that measures are in place to ensure that no pilfering occurs during the bags' journey within the elaborate conveyor belt and sorting system, between the time of check in on the upper floors of the terminals and the time the bags reach the loading areas on the ground floor.

"We will continue to take this zero-tolerance approach, with all loopholes tightly closed, until pilfering is eradicated completely," said Novick.