Bags get lost, stolen, opened by dishonest employees, or break open while being handled. The occurrence rate for this is low, but it does happen. Nearly 1.8 million pieces of luggage were lost, stolen, or damaged by major U.S. airlines in 2012—and that’s just on domestic flights.That is a mishandling of 3.09 bags per 1,000 passengers.
Luggage is designed to carry our clothes, you should never place an item of value inside checked luggage if it is irreplaceable – especially photographs, important papers, laptops, or items of high dollar value like jewelry which would be difficult to replace. The best way to travel with valuables is to pack them in your carry-on luggage.
1. Never place anything you need within the next 24 hours in your check luggage such as medicine, or business presentation materials.
2. Fly non-stop whenever possible; arrive at the airport early to make sure your luggage has enough time to be properly placed on board.
3. Attach your contact information on your luggage, use a sturdy luggage tag that won’t rip off. And place a copy of your itinerary inside your bag if it needs to be opened to determine ownership or destination include a cell phone number or email address.
4. Only use TSA accepted luggage locks. These new type of locks allow only you and
the TSA ( with a special override tool to open them) Non-TSA locks will be cut off leaving your bags vulnerable.
5. Ship your luggage ahead to your destination, with a services like FedEx, Luggage Concierge or Virtual Bellhop. It saves you hours of time. No need to stand in line checking luggage, or waiting for it upon landing. Hotel will accept and hold your luggage until you arrive. Shipping fees can be less than the airlines’ fees for overweight or over-sized (think sports gear) luggage. (Side note always pack a luggage scale to avoid fees)
6. Take a photo of your bag with your cell phone before you check it in case you need it later if you are making a damaged or loss claim.
7. Make sure you get down to baggage claim right away – and stand by the luggage chute where the luggage first comes out. Watch the below news report from a luggage theft victim who did not follow this cardinal rule.
8. After you’ve reclaimed your bag at your destination, check it before you leave the baggage claim area just to make sure all your stuff is inside.
Police reports are numerous with dishonest airline baggage handlers, hotel clerks, and train employees who have been caught removing items of value from checked luggage, and the majority of time, the thieves are rarely caught because with several people handling the luggage it is difficult to determine where the theft occurred.
Then there is the obscure theft. In a recent report from Spain a skilled set of luggage thieves found an ingenious way to steal valuables from checked luggage. In a report dated June 8, 2011, a flexible thief squeezed into a large suitcase and then emerged to plunder valuables from other bags while inside the luggage compartment of a Spanish airport bus, police say. The thief had a partner who would buy a bus ticket and place the suitcase in a bus from Girona airport to Barcelona in northeastern Spain, police said in a statement late Tuesday.
“Once the trip began, he would get out of the suitcase, search for valuable objects and hide them in a smaller bag he carried with him,” regional Catalan police said. The thief would then get back into the suitcase, to be reclaimed by his partner at the end of the 90-minute trip. Alerted by the repeated thefts, police inspected a suspicious bag on the bus on June 3 and opened it up. “They saw there was a man doubled up almost like a contortionist,” the statement said. The thief had a mobile phone, a small bag and a sharp object to open zips and locks, police said. Spanish police officers boarded the bus and detained the man who had left the suitcase in the luggage compartment.
One last thing to consider about lost luggage, sometimes someone may have picked it up on purpose, or by accident, and simply left it some place else in the airport. If that was the case, the airport police may have picked it up and have it in the airport police lost and found. Here is a listing of the contact numbers for airport lost and found offices around the country.
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