Posted April 2, 2009 by Nicki Krawczyk
Considering air travelers have to jump through multiple metaphorical hoops to board an airplane nowadays, I think it’s fair to say that most of us expect our checked luggage to receive the same degree of scrutiny and secure transit that we do.
Weeeeeeell, as it turns out, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Recently, a Continental Airlines employee in Houston came forward to announce that she had regularly witnessed her fellow employees stealing items out of travelers’ checked luggage. Apparently, once luggage moves to a loading area, security becomes lax and valuable items are ripe for the plucking.
This news comes on the heels of a theft ring bust involving Delta Airlines contract employees in St. Louis. In this case, baggage handlers had been helping themselves to luggage for more than a year, stealing some 900 items.
The federal loss limits per bag per person are currently set at $3,300, which might cover the value of stolen items but certainly doesn’t make up for the inconvenience and emotional toll of discovering these items missing, filing claims and then waiting for your remuneration. So what can you do to keep your items safer in the first place? Short of booby-trapping your bag (which will definitely backfire on you if a TSA official opens it instead of a sticky-fingered filcher), here are some suggestions:
- Don’t check valuables in your luggage. It’s a simple rule, but people forget it. Many airlines won’t assume liability for valuables like electronics or jewelry anyway, so you wouldn’t even get to file a claim if they were stolen. As a rule of thumb: If it has great sentimental or monetary value, carry it with you or don’t bring it at all.
- Ship your valuables. You’ll want to look very carefully at the liability policies of carriers like FedEx, UPS, or DHL, but it may turn out that their highly-insured and carefully monitored shipping systems may be a better route for sending expensive souvenirs back home from a trip.
- Use a TSA-approved lock. The average little travel lock has been put out of commission by the TSA’s need to inspect your luggage at its discretion, but a TSA recognized lock lets inspectors open your luggage with a master key. Obviously, this can’t completely protect your luggage, but will probably save you from an unzip-and-grab theft.
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