Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal's sole international airport, has been found to be clearly deficient when it comes to baggage loss by passengers for no fault of theirs.

Though TIA claims that it provides baggage reconciliation services comparable to other international airports, it is not providing the services in line with International Air Transport Association Resolution 753 that came into effect in 2018, a senior TIA official admitted.

"The IATA is not only a world-wide association of airlines, but also a de-facto regulatory body for air transport economics. It also formulates standards for passenger processing, such as issuing of boarding cards, baggage tags, self-check-in kiosks, and the baggage reconciliation system (BRS)," a senior official at Nepal Airlines explained.

The Resolution 753 was introduced by IATA with the intent of reducing baggage losses that have been escalating over the years. The resolution on baggage tracking is binding on members to enable airlines to address the challenge of baggage mishandling by implementing cross-industry tracking for every baggage journey. When implemented, it mandates the tracking of the baggage at four key points in the baggage journey -- passenger handover to the airline, loading to the aircraft, delivery to the transfer area, and finally return to the passenger. Besides, the airlines need to share the tracking information with their interline journey partners as needed. Typically, all international passengers pay about 40 US cents, incorporated in their airfare, for availing the BRS services at TIA and other airports, and are logically entitled to get the best services.

However, despite numerous IA- TA-member airlines plying to Kathmandu, they have not been able to implement the resolution as the BRS services provider contracted by TIA in 2017 -- SITA BV - hasn't evinced interest in implementing the passenger-friendly edict that would certainly lead to a better passenger experience at TIA. In pre-COVID days, flyers often arrived at TIA after a multi-hop flight to find their baggage missing.

This inability of TIA management in compelling its contractor SITA to do the needful, clearly points to the ingrained culture of gross indifference prevailing at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, an organisation doubling as airport services provider, as well as the regulator for air transport, but excelling at none.

According to airlines operators, this failure at improving passenger experience by four consecutive general managers since 2018, clearly points to the culture of rewarding incompetence and professional ignorance prevailing at CAAN.

A version of this article appears in the print on June 11, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.