Checked Luggage: How to Protect It

Protecting Your Checked Luggage

You’ve booked the cheapest airline tickets and now it’s time to pack for your getaway. So how do you protect your checked luggage and its contents?

TSA Invades Checked Luggage
Now that locks on checked luggage have to be TSA-approved, flyers are no longer able to secure their belongings in checked bags. Additionally, cases of theft by TSA personnel have brought attention to the problem.

  • A Dallas-Ft. Worth TSA agent, José Alberto, was arrested when he was found with over $200 worth of stolen women’s sunglasses and jewelry in his backpack.
  • TSA officer Paul Yashou was arrested in Los Angeles for stealing $22,000 worth of expensive watches from checked luggage, including a $15,000 IWC GST watch that he tried to sell on eBay.
  • A security supervisor at Newark Liberty was recently sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison for stealing cash from luggage.
  • A TSA worker in Orlando was accused in June of stealing laptop computers from checked luggage.
  • Two agents at Kennedy Airport were arrested in February, accused of stealing $160,000 from checked bags. They could receive 7-year prison sentences.

Since the TSA was created, 150,000 claims have been filed for valuables missing from checked luggage. Around 36% of claims are paid in full or in part, with settlements averaging $192.

How to protect your checked baggage when traveling

Keeping Your Checked Luggage (and Belongings) Safe

Here are some tips for FareCompare readers for keeping valuables safe when traveling:

  • Leave valuables at home if possible. If you must take them, put them in carry-on luggage.
  • Choose distinctive-looking luggage with an eye-catching color or pattern. Thieves target luggage that looks like everyone else’s.
  • Avoid expensive luggage. Criminals expect to find more expensive items in designer bags.
  • Use hard-sided luggage. Thieves can quickly cut through a fabric suitcase.
  • When checking luggage containing valuables, consider making a date-stamped video recording of you packing the items. Be sure you have serial numbers and / or receipts for your valuables, should you have to make a claim.
  • Consider insured shipping of your belongings to and from your destination, rather than checking luggage.

When Airlines Lose Your Checked Luggage

Airlines and airports are making good-faith efforts to reassure passengers they are committed to reuniting them with their luggage (and all its contents) when they reach their destination. A few airports and airlines are using RFID tags instead of bar-codes for tracking and sorting luggage. Accuracy of luggage handling with RFID tags exceeds 99%, meaning fewer items end up being sold at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama.

Additionally, airlines must now refund any checked luggage fees — in addition to any compensation they owe you — if they lose your bags. It’s small comfort, but it’s something. Yet some airlines want to pay your airline baggage fees!

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Published: September 27, 2011