The India-UAE air corridor is one of the busiest routes as a large number of Indians travel to the Gulf country for business, tourism and employment purposes. As the festival season is approaching, the flow of visitors is set to increase substantially. But, of late, there has been a noticeable increase in the rate at which check-in baggage is being declined at Mumbai International Airport as domestic and international passengers are carrying more items that are banned.
According to Mumbai Airport, some of the prohibited items frequently found in check-in baggage are dry coconut (copra), fireworks, flares, party poppers, matches, paint, fire camphor, ghee, pickles, and other oily food items.
“Some other items that are considered top culprits include e-cigarettes, lighters, power banks, and spray bottles to name a few. Unbeknownst to many passengers, all these items pose potential risks to flight safety when mishandled or stored improperly. These items are typically known to be associated with fire hazards, explosions, or interference with the aircraft’s electrical systems,” Mumbai Airport said.
Highly flammable items
A total of 943 dry coconuts from passengers’ check-in bags were found in a month alone last year. Dry coconut contains a high amount of oil which is highly flammable and can cause fire if it encounters heat inside the aircraft. India’s Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) added it to the list of prohibited items in March 2022, with the majority of passengers still lacking awareness about this inclusion, it said.
As per Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) third-quarter passenger figures, Dubai, London and Abu Dhabi continued to hold their status as the most preferred international destinations as the passenger traffic from the top three international destinations surpassed 1.1 million, marking a 21 per cent increase as compared to 0.9 million in Q3 2022.
Importantly, the UAE is home to over 3.5 million non-resident Indians, the largest expatriate community in the Gulf country. In addition, Indians account for the largest portion of tourist numbers. India continued to be the top destination for Dubai International Airport in the first half of 2023 with 6 million passengers using the world’s busiest airport.
“While CSMIA understands the emotional importance attached to certain religious items, especially during festive periods, some of these seemingly harmless items can potentially be life-threatening and pose grave safety and security risks.
“This rising trend in the rejection rate of check-in baggage can largely be attributed to a lack of awareness among general travellers regarding items that are prohibited or dangerous to be carried in the aircraft. Passengers must prioritise knowing and comprehending the guidelines issued by the airport or airlines concerning items that are considered hazardous and prohibited,” it said.
Check-in baggage screening process
The proportion of check-in bags that were rejected compared to the total number of screened bags, increased from 0.31 per cent in December 2022 to 0.73 per cent in May.
The baggage system at Mumbai Airport has an approximate 8-kilometre baggage belt that handles a remarkable capacity of 9,600 bags per hour at Terminal 2 and 4,800 bags per hour at Terminal 1.
Some of the banned items:
Below is the check-in baggage screening process for passengers travelling through Mumbai International Airport.
Step 1: Passengers hand over their check-in bags to the airline counters. The airline representative sticks a barcode tag on the bag.
Step 2: The bag goes through an X-ray, one level down, transported on blue conveyor belts.
Step 3: Eight X-ray machines scan each bag and send it off. The In-Line Security team member receives the scanned X-Ray image and within 20 to 30 seconds it’s decided if the bag is clear to go ahead. CCTV cameras track each bag during this entire process.