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March 2003 Vol. 18, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Another Packing Peril

from the March, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

My husband and I were flying from Chicago to Barbados on Air Jamaica this past October, with a two-hour layover in Jamaica. Before boarding our flight in Montego Bay to continue to Barbados, an Air Jamaica representative stopped us and said our tag had fallen off a piece of our checked luggage. He wanted us to identify the untagged bag, which we did. He gave us a new tag, and we boarded the plane.

After we got to Barbados and were sitting on the resort shuttle, a Barbados customs officer stopped us and said we were missing a piece of luggage. We told him we had all our luggage, but he wanted us to come with him. He took us to a room where a green suitcase was sitting on a table. We said it wasn't ours, but he asked if they could open "our" piece of luggage. We said go ahead, but repeated that it wasn't ours. He cut off the locks and opened it. Inside were six bricks of marijuana. I almost fainted.

They took us into a small room where an official looked through the marijuana. They kept referring to the luggage as ours. A narcotics officer asked us questions, and a police officer commented that the marijuana could have come from Chicago. We said this had to have happened in Jamaica where one of our tags had "fallen off" -- that tag was now on this green piece of luggage.

They didn't tell us what was going on but said we had to go to the police station. I was so afraid, I called the U.S. Embassy, so the officials then said that after we went to the station to give statements, they would take us to the resort. It was 10 p.m. We had been up since 4 a.m. and had been in custody for four hours, much of the time in a locked room watching them process the marijuana. We were afraid, hungry, and exhausted.

The police station was a pigsty. They put us in separate rooms and for the next two hours took and retook our statements. They didn't have a computer, so everything was handwritten. We got to our resort at 1 a.m. While we considered catching the next flight back to Chicago, we decided to stay and are glad we did because the diving was great. We didn't hear from the police or customs again.

We asked local Bajans about Air Jamaica and several said that Air Jamaica is frequently used for drug smuggling. One person told us that he stitches closed the outside pockets on his luggage because an Air Jamaica employee will slip drugs into an outside pocket and at the next airport another Air Jamaica employee will take it out.

However, this hasn't stopped us from flying Air Jamaica. We are using the two first-class tickets they gave us for this ordeal and heading to St. Lucia at the end of March.

- Katie Moyle, Appleton, Wis.

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