Zakia Haseen, 56, a Bangladeshi-American traveled to Dhaka from the USA by Qatar Airways last February.
When she arrived in Dhaka, her baggage was missing. Turns out it was left behind in Doha. The bags - containing some vital medicines - were not delivered to her for the entire duration of the trip, which lasted a few days.
The airways finally delivered the bag to a temporary address in Bangladesh, by which time Zakia had left for the USA.
Ever since, she has been in touch with the Qatar Airways Customer contact centre to return the bag to her USA address.
"It has been around seven months, more than 65 emails exchanged between the airline's Dhaka and Qatar office and Customer Service Center, but there is no result. Customer service has been very professional but can't help since they can't get an answer from their Dhaka office," Zakia told TBS.
"When I contacted Qatar Airways' customer service in Doha, they gave me an email to their Dhaka office. I emailed to that address too, but there was no response. When I contacted the Doha office again, I finally got a reply after some urging from the Doha office."
Zakia shares her plight with hundreds of Bangladeshi air travellers, who have been victims of such harassment by airlines over the years.
The number of these incidents increased during the last two Eids when many Bangladeshis returned to the country, according to the Dhaka Airport Authority.
Usually budget (low cost carrier) airlines have the most cases of baggage left behind.
Although it decreased in the last one month, incidents of luggage left behind increased excessively in the case of all types of airlines in the previous few months, said the authority.
In each flight of Salam Air, Jazeera Airways, Air Arabia, at least 20-50 passengers used to leave without their bags, the authorities said.
The airlines used to promise to send the luggage home within three-four days without giving any written documents to the passengers.
But it took more than a month to get the luggage.
Harassment did not end here, even if passengers were given their own phone number, no airline would respond properly after the passenger left the airport.
Regarding the case of passenger Zakia, Qatar Airways Dhaka Airport Service Agent Md Ahsan told TBS, "On behalf of the passenger, one of his representatives should contact our airport office with all the information, including email documents, in advance regarding the baggage. Then we can arrange to send it subject to the approval of the higher authority."
Other operators contacted also said the same.
Despite rising numbers, the airport authority maintains that it has become strict against airlines regarding left-behind luggage and such incidents have fallen significantly in the last month.
Group Captain Md Kamrul Islam, executive director, Dhaka airport told TBS, "At present, around 20,000-22,000 passengers use the airport every day. The cases of left luggage have already reduced after the civil aviation authority reduced flight frequency, cut seats, and imposed fines and other penalties. Now the left-behind rate is less than 1%."
In aviation terms, baggage left behind is the failure of a passenger on a flight to arrive with his or her luggage at the intended destination.
Airlines deliberately do not carry passengers' luggage for various reasons, even if they originally carry the passenger.
"The carrying capacity of the aircraft is fixed in the sky. The weights of the empty aircraft, passengers, the luggage and fuel oil are adjusted and the flight is prepared by keeping the weight fixed," Taufiq Mannan, duty in-charge, Dhaka airport, Jazeera Airways, told The Business Standard.
"We mainly have passengers here who bring more luggage, so sometimes airlines operate flights by reducing the weight of the luggage.
"And sometimes when the weather is bad, the airlines reduces the luggage and takes more fuel. This is especially the case in winter," he added.
Salam Air's airport service agent Nazmul Huda Shamim told TBS, "Technical errors, mis-handling, wrong tagging, mechanical errors in transit are also responsible for baggage left behind, among other factors. But nowadays it has reduced a lot."
A point of contention has been that airline staffers already know whose luggage will be delayed so they can inform the passengers, cutting down hours of worrying.
Ineffective compensation procedure
If a passenger does not find his luggage after reaching the destination, he has to go to the Lost and Found and file a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) regarding the loss of luggage.
The PIR can be used to track where the passenger's luggage is.
Airlines have rules to compensate passengers if baggage is not delivered within 21 days of filing the PIR.
State-owned Biman Bangladesh Airlines operates a 'Lost and Found' department.
Sometimes the passengers get only the contact number of airlines from the Biman staffer instead of completing the PIR procedure.
Passengers are being denied compensation due to not being able to file the PIR, said airport sources.
Md Zahid Hossain, managing director, Biman, told TBS, "Currently, ground handlings have become more hassle free as the passengers are getting their luggage within one hour. We are strictly handling the services."