Stolen Souvenirs and Other Embarrassing Baggage

Cranky is on vacation, but I’ve lined up some excellent guest bloggers for you while I’m gone. Today I have The Traveling Optimist, who is a frequent commenter and previous guest poster on the blog.

Recent articles have highlighted inexcusable stealing out of passenger baggage. It does not happen often based on the number of bags handled every day but consider the phenomenal temptation in that volume, what you personally pack in your luggage and what you can do to reduce the likelihood of it happening to you.

Statistics are not easy to come by but here’s a few “wow” numbers to ponder for three main international gateways:

Per Day Passengers Number of Bags Number of Flights Bags per Flight
LAX 82,500 153,000 1240 125
JFK 122,500 226,500 1100 200
LHR 184,000 340,500 1300 260



Passenger boardings: FAA.Gov/Airports Airtraffic, 2007
Bags: Industry average of 1.85 combined domestic international checked bags
Flights: PANYNJ.Gov, Wikipedia and LAWA.Org

Where there is bountiful chaos there is always opportunity and theft can occur at any point from check-in to drop off at baggage claim. A commuter hop might have 20 checked bags on board but the late night 747 full of migrant workers going home to the Philippines, however, can easily “max out” at 1200+ pieces. I once wanted to bring an ancient battle mace from Scotland back to Washington D.C. on United Airlines. The ticket agent at Heathrow agreed to additional security measures so no one on board would be alarmed. I never saw it again.

Security screening devices reveal solid, bulky objects in recognizable shapes. Consider that statement. While paid to look for weapons, other things come across the screen in front of bored or opportunistic eyes. The thief is looking for bling while the honest agent is looking for weapons but comes across a bag full of non-lethal but very personal items. Nothing like luggage loaded with rather long and large sex toys to perk up a dull shift.

Job cuts mean that most airport workers simply don’t have time to rifle through your belongings. Further, baggage should not announce embarrassing riches inside; the exotic destination bag tag does all the broadcasting. Two Louis Vuittons stuffed to the gills, screaming at the stitches and fresh off an inbound from Hong Kong or heading home to London? It doesn’t take a brain surgeon.

Overstuffed bags or faulty zippers burst every day. That is on you for using old, cheap or poorly packed luggage. But is the worker faced with the situation truly pilfering or simply trying to stuff your junk back inside as best as possible? You’ll know when you unpack. Avoid ostentatious or even matching luggage, pack nothing you can’t afford to lose and for Pete’s sake, leave the bling and the bedroom toys at home.


The Traveling Optimist lives in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and believes glamor and excitement still exists in the airways of the world. A 24 year veteran of the airline industry, he now peacefully earns his living in mortgage financing. Presently working on projects that will redefine his life yet again, the Optimist is ever ready for the next adventure, plane ride and vacation to the far corners of the only planet he’ll ever live on.

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