Losing a piece of luggage is very stressful for international travellers but when that case contains the ashes of a beloved relative, the pain is acute.
This is what happened to the Gilmour family from Tasmania enroute to Ireland last week.
Bob Gilmour (63) and his family had travelled from Australia with the remains of his parents to fulfil their wishes of being laid to rest in their Irish and English birthplaces.
But when they landed in Dublin last Saturday off a flight from Italy, Mr Gilmour made the grim discovery that his luggage, and the ashes, were nowhere to be found.
However, after a scramble by Aer Lingus staff to locate the bags they were finally found on Tuesday at Milan’s Malpensa Airport where they had been forgotten by baggage handlers.
Mr Gilmour told The Irish Times a massive weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
“It feels great,” he said of the prospect of being able to scatter his father’s ashes over his grandparents’ grave in his hometown of Ballymena, Co Antrim.
“I know it’s what he wanted. I am sure he will be at peace knowing that he is at home with his mum and dad.”
Bob’s late father Sam Gilmour met his wife Marjorie, who was from Birmingham, while serving in the Royal Air Force during the second World War. They later married and in 1967 emigrated with their 11-year-old son Bob to Australia.
Before their deaths, the couple said they wanted to have their remains brought back to their respective home countries and scattered on family graves. So when Bob Gilmour’s youngest daughter was offered the opportunity to train at a ballet school in Italy the family seized the opportunity.
“Honestly my dad would be laughing his head off,” he said of the drama.
An Aer Lingus spokesman said the airline was very sorry over the blunder.
“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused,” the spokesman said.
Most airlines, including Aer Lingus, permit passengers to carry ashes contained in an urn as either checked or cabin baggage.
“The undertaker or funeral director must ensure that the urn is secured in a padded, leak-proof container that is not made of metal, as it must pass through an X-ray machine,” the Aer Lingus website says.
“The urn is then part of your normal baggage allowance. You must be in possession of a death certificate and cremation certificate to be allowed carry ashes on board.”