A Mango Airlines aeroplane docked on the tarmac at King Shake Airport. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)
Durban - A Durban woman and at least eight other travellers are planning to take legal action against Mango Airlines after their luggage was ripped open and their personal belongings stolen when they flew from Johannesburg to Durban last week.

Zululand business owner Lorraine Goodman said she travelled from Dubai with at least R50000 worth of cosmetics, make-up and other items for her small beauty business last Tuesday. Her luggage also included items for her daughter Nicky’s wedding which were stolen.

She collected her luggage at OR Tambo International Airport and “it was without a scratch”.

However, when she picked up her luggage in Durban, it was “smashed apart”.

She and other passengers have since opened a case of theft and damage to property with the police.

Goodman said the passengers’ frustrations began when they were forced to wait almost three hours after their local flight was delayed.

“We were meant to reach Durban at 9.30pm but only arrived after midnight. We were already irritable and tired but when we arrived at the conveyor belts to pick up our luggage, that is when the nightmare got worse,” she said.

Goodman said her luggage lay on the conveyor belt opened and damaged. While she tried to gather her loose items, she said she noticed more bags on the belt in a similar condition.

“At least eight other passengers on the same flight had the locks on their bags smashed and their personal belongings stolen.

“I even secured my bags with cable ties but they were cut.

“We immediately called security who contacted someone from Mango. That person said they would deal with the matter in the morning since it was already after midnight,” she said.

She said passengers who had their baggage “ripped apart” were forced to leave the situation as it was until the morning.

Goodman said one particular passenger was “overcome with emotion” as she had travelled with her special needs child who had become agitated and exhausted because of the delay.

“It was just a complete nightmare. To make matters worse, we have still not heard back from the airline,” she said.

Mango Airline spokesperson Beverley Bradley said they are investigating six reports, of which two were closed the same night due to no weight discrepancy of the suitcase “probably meaning nothing was noted missing”.

Bradley said the airline’s baggage handlers were outsourced to a third party, Bidair Services, that was also investigating the matter.

Speaking on the flight delay, Bradley said the flight was delayed for 2hours and 16 minutes as the aircraft had technical issues and had to be replaced with an operational aircraft.

“These two reasons resulted in the unforeseen delay. Mango regrets the inconvenience caused to its guests,” she said.

She added that guests were given refreshment vouchers in compensation for the delay.

Bradley assured that Mango Airlines would also compensate passengers, according to their baggage terms and conditions, for the damages and losses incurred.

“Please know that we are doing our best to ensure that all bags are transported as safely as possible but due to the very complex nature of using conveyor belts subject to complications from time to time, and the human factor playing a vital role it does pose challenges,” Bradley said.

However, Goodman said the aggrieved passengers have been in contact with each other to begin legal processes against the airline.

Goodman grows her own herbs on her Zululand farm and makes essential oils, bath scrubs and other beauty items.

She said: “For a small business owner like myself, theft of about R50000 worth of stock can cripple a business.

“This incident was a serious violation and is so disheartening. It is disgusting that people can do this,” she said.

Airports Company South Africa King Shaka spokesperson Colin Naidoo said the matter needed to be reported to the police and raised with the airline.

- THE MERCURY