LOSING your luggage is a traumatic experience and one that can ruin a holiday. Imagine yourself at the airport, waiting for your bag to come around on the baggage carousel.
The people around you slowly empty the conveyer belt, yet your luggage does not seem to come through.
Your brows furrow, you feel worried and frustrated waiting for your bag to arrive. The conveyer belt begins to slow down, and you sense that the inevitable has happened.
And then it stops. The conveyer belt is empty and your heart begins to flutter. Your baggage is lost.
A survey finds that South Africans fear lost luggage more than swine flu.
According to the findings of an online survey conducted by global online travel booking service Travelstart.co.za, 53percent of South African travellers would rather deal with the possibility of contracting swine flu than run the risk of losing their luggage.
Only 5percent of travellers polled thought contracting swine flu the biggest fear when travelling.
Chief executive and founder of Travelstart Stephan Ekbergh says: "Although Airports Company South Africa and the airlines have worked hard over the last year to curb theft and misplaced luggage, it is clear that this is still a big fear for both South African and global travellers."
In 2007 about 40million items of luggage were reported lost globally. This figure decreased to 32million last year.
"In South Africa about 10000 personal items were reported lost or stolen in 2008, and this does not include damaged and stolen luggage.
"Few passengers seem to know that if their luggage is lost, damaged or merely delayed for more than four hours, they are entitled to compensation," says Ekbergh.
Airlines offer compensation in the region of $20 (about R150) per kilogram for lost or delayed luggage. Although this amount is the industry standard, some airlines compensate well above this rate - an example of this is Air Botswana that compensates at a rate of $42 (about R300) per kilogram.
"Protecting your valuables is especially important with personal items that are impossible to replace, like the photographs of your holiday should you lose your camera, jewellery and valuable company and personal information in the event of a lost laptop," says Ekbergh.
"Although it is important to understand what compensation you are entitled to as a passenger, it may also be prudent to ensure that you have adequate travel insurance to protect your valuables.
"With travel insurance, you can claim up to R25000 for theft or damage to your baggage, depending on the amount of cover you opted for."
In addition to the standard safety measures travellers should undertake, SITA - the organisation specialising in air transport communication and information technology solutions - has recently announced that radio-frequency identification could potentially save the airline industry $750million (R5,5 billion) annually by ensuring origin-to-destination tracking of baggage.
About 30percent of the travellers polled in the survey thought that missing a flight is the major concern.
Although there are about 1000 South Africans in jails globally convicted for crimes relating to drug trafficking, a mere 13percent said they would be terrified of being mistaken for a drug mule and given a full body search.