Heathrow. But where's my luggage?

Trip Start May 25, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Monday, August 22, 2005

Touch down to the rain of Heathrow. As we descended through the clouds the view remained obscured. The morning rainwater smeared across the windows of the plane as we hurtled to the wet island below.

I smiled. Typical! When is the weather in London ever a welcome sight to the international traveller? But it wouldn't have felt so much like home if it there had been bright sun.

Wow. It's not often that you get to return to your home country for a connecting flight only. No trips to meet friends for me - I had a date with some Irish academics!

As the buzz of the immigration lounge reached my ears I felt happy. I had plenty of time to get to the departure lounge, and maybe there would be time to grab an English newspaper, and perhaps some coffee on the way.

The carousel jerked into life with a splutter. The bags stuttered their way along the conveyor belt. I looked into the distance to try and spot mine. There were a lot of people, but with only one bag I could afford to hang back and dive through the elbows as it went past.

The bags came through faster, anytime now. And then, through the slated plastic gates a mess appeared. 'Poor sod whoever that bag belongs to!' I thought. Only as it got closer did I recognise the items spilling out; it was mine!


I pulled the bag and contents off the conveyor belt, under a ceiling of pitiful eyes. I quickly scanned the belt, was anything left behind? What a mess.

Although my bag had been secured it had received quite some attention. It had looked a lot better the last time I'd seen it in Johannesburg. White powder and black grease coated everything inside. Nothing was folded, everything had been scrunched, including the paperwork I had packed with such care.


The locks had been tampered with; they had obviously tried to cut them. But finding the metal too tough, a quick slash with a knife had ended their entrance problems. As I peeled back the material to look further inside, shards of former clothes and toiletries caught my eyes.

Being the 'professional' traveller, I had wrapped most things inside plastic bags. That was the downside of having a rucksack. The permeable outer layer had left my clothes smelling before, so now I knew better. But the thieves didn't have the time to look inside each bag. More quick movements with a blade had soon showed the contents to not be worth their efforts. However, it had left most of my belongings slashed.

I wheeled over to the British Airways desk.

'Good morning Madam! How can I help?'

"Well, my bag has been slashed, and so have my belongings. Things are missing, and this t-shirt and these socks are not mine!"

'I see. And where are you travelling from?'

"Joburg!" I said. My knowing smile reflected in his glasses, and was soon mirrored in his face.

'I'm sorry about that. It's been happening a lot. Are you OK?'

"Yes, I'm fine. I just have a connecting flight in an hour so need to get this lot into something else for that. I can sort it out later."

And with that he took my statement, looked at the bag and gave me a reference number for a compensation claim.

"Have you got any plastic bags or tape so I can make this ok for my next flight?"

So it was an interesting scuttle through Heathrow. I filled a few bins full of the remnants of my belongings, packed all my 'saveables' back into the bag and ran, in the customary fashion, to my next flight.

So much for a newspaper and a cup of coffee! Welcome to Heathrow! Oh well, it can't get much worse in Ireland, can it?
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