Very occasionally people find themselves in the sad position of waiting in the baggage reclaim area at Rhodes Airport until the very last bag is loaded onto the belt by the baggage handlers, only to find their bag has not arrived.
Why does this happen, and what should you do if it happens to you?
The commonest reason is that it was never loaded on to your plane in the first place, and is either still at your starting point or has been loaded onto a plane to somewhere else by mistake. It is also possible that the Rhodes baggage handlers accidentally failed to unload your bag from the hold of the plane you arrived on, or it fell off the cart on its journey from plane to baggage reclaim area. Both these last are very rare, and the extremely simple system for arriving baggage at Rhodes (one baggage reclaim area for all flights, just 4 reclaim belts) makes it highly unlikely that your bag has reached the reclaim area and you haven’t got it.
Now at the departure airport, you take your bag to a check-in or bag drop desk, or these days sometimes a machine. A long strip of paper is printed and stuck to the bag (called a bag tag), with a receipt for you. Look at the receipt. Does it have the correct code for your destination airport (RHO = Rhodes)? I once had my bag checked to HKG (Hong Kong) by mistake because that was where the previous traveller at the same desk was going. That meant the long strip of paper also said HKG, and so did the bar code printed on the bag tag. At most European airports, once the bag is tagged, it disappears off down a conveyor belt out of sight. This doesn’t happen yet at Rhodes itself though we’re promised it will within the next two to three years.
Once on the conveyor belt the bag is mixed in with all the other bags for all the other airlines using the same terminal, and first goes to central hold baggage scanning. Here the bag is x-rayed to check for bombs and other illegal items, and may be opened if something iffy shows up on the x-ray. Maybe your bag contains something that looks suspicious on an x-ray and it has been held back for manual inspection, causing it to miss the flight. If not the bag carries on along the conveyor system to the sorting area. Here bags are sorted either by humans looking at the destination airport code on the bag tag, or machines reading the bar code, and in either case the bag is directed onto another conveyor or chute to a holding area dedicated to your flight. Now humans can make mistakes, and machines can mis-read. Even more seriously, all those conveyor belts. scanners, and chutes sometimes tear off the bag tag. Then nobody knows where the bag is supposed to be going, which airline is in charge of it, and who owns it.
So you’ve arrived at Rhodes and your bag hasn’t. The first thing to do is to report this to the ground handling company that looks after your airline. There are three ground handling companies at Rhodes – Goldair, Skyserv, and Swissport. Which one to report to? A clue – their name will have been painted on the side of the stairs you used to get off the plane. Where’s their office? One is in the baggage reclaim area itself, the other two are in the check-in hall (desks 1 to 14 area). See the person on duty, report what has happened, describe your bag. They may already know about it if the bag has been left behind at your starting point but still has all its tags. Either way, get a Property Irregularity Report sheet and number from them.
Now you wait. If the bag was simply left behind, the baggage desk may well know when it will arrive, if you’re flying from an airport which has several flights a week by your airline to Rhodes, the bag could reach there within a day or so. If the desk staff don’t know when it is expected, they will give you details of the World Tracer website. Unidentified bags found at airports are entered into this, and a computer tries to match missing bags to unidentified ones. That’s why it is important to give as good a description of your bag as possible, and if possible put contact details in a side pocket or inside.Taking a photo using your phone is a good idea too – some baggage desks can upload this.
Keep an eye on the World Tracer website. That’s where updates will appear as your bag is found and makes its way towards you. Ringing the airline or the airport is pointless until the bag is found.