Turkmenistan Airlines Passengers in Almaty Complain About Missing Luggage

Problem “chronic”, according to Almaty airport press service

Turkmenistan Airlines is regularly leaving behind baggage checked on flights from Ashgabat to Almaty, turkmen.news has learned. The scale of the problem is considerable – there have been 504 complaints from passengers this year alone, an average of some 15 complaints per flight.

“There are problems with the arrival of passengers’ baggage on practically every one of the airline’s flights,” Almaty international airport press service told turkmen.news on March 15. “Since the start of 2019, the problems have become chronic; practically every flight at Ashgabat airport does not have its full complement of baggage.”

In January 2019 the lost luggage department at Almaty airport received 93 complaints from Turkmenistan Airlines passengers, the press service said. There were even more in February – 293, and as of March 15, 118 complaints had been received.

Cargo scam?

Passengers told turkmen.news that checked baggage is replaced by unregistered textile cargo. There is great demand in Kazakhstan for towels, bed linen, bathrobes and other goods from Turkmen factories. Businessmen pay bribes to baggage handlers at Ashgabat airport to load tonnes of textiles onto aircraft bound for Almaty, the passengers said. The handlers then have to make room for the cargo by taking ordinary people’s luggage off the plane.

The claim has been indirectly confirmed by Almaty airport press service.

“In violation of the rules and regulations packages and bales exceeding (often substantially) the permitted limit of 32 kg per passenger are registered at Ashgabat airport on flights to Almaty, i.e. they are actually cargo, not baggage, and so they should be registered at the airport of origin as cargo and have an accompanying air waybill,” the press service said.

The issue has been raised with Turkmenistan Airlines. “Almaty international airport has notified the Turkmenistan Airlines representative office in Almaty several times in writing and asked them to rectify the problem. However, as of now the airline has yet to fix these problems,” the airport press service told turkmen.news.

All attempts by turkmen.news to contact Turkmenistan Airlines by telephone on March 14 and 15 failed, as calls went unanswered.

According to a source close to Turkmenistan Airlines, the airline management has taken the decision to sometimes use a larger Boeing 757 on the Almaty route instead of the usual Boeing 737 to cope with the baggage. However, the source said this hasn’t solved the problem – baggage is still arriving several weeks late.

Adding insult to injury

Turkmenistan Airlines does not bring missing luggage on the next flight, but “quite a while later,” the Almaty airport press service said. Some people have to wait several weeks for their baggage, a passenger confirmed to turkmen.news.

“We arrive, but our luggage doesn’t!” another passenger said. “We have to wait for it to come and we never know how long it’s going to take. As a result, we have to fork out quite a bit to rent a flat and on top of that we pay for travel to the airport to meet every flight from Ashgabat in the hope that our things will arrive.”

Many passengers from Turkmenistan transit through Almaty on their way to see relatives in other parts of Kazakhstan, especially Mangystau region, over 1,800 km west of Almaty, so the missing luggage gives them quite a headache. It is easier for people with relatives in Almaty who agree to take the travellers’ baggage checks and go to the airport to meet the Turkmen flights.

Turkmenistan Airlines is the only carrier operating between Ashgabat and Almaty. Flights take place three times a week.

On February 4 the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) suspended Turkmenistan Airlines flights to EU countries and in EU airspace until confirmation that the airline meets international aviation safety standards. The ban is still in place. Details of the EASA safety concerns have not been reported.

Image on front page: Farah | Pinterest