One time at a Phoenix airport other passengers and I watched baggage handlers throttle, toss and drop our baggage like they were mad at it. After a moment of silence, one passenger asked, “Is that our luggage?” I said, “Yes and so much for that Waterford Crystal.” (I partially lied; it was our luggage but there was no Crystal in my bags.) Furthermore, the March 2014 sting nabbing several thieving baggage handlers at LAX is merely one example of airport theft rings. Finally, there is the phenomenon of lost luggage, which I’ve personally endured 4 or 5 times already. Clearly, when you fly and check luggage, you are making an act of faith that your possessions won’t be damaged, lost or stolen. The problem is supposedly small compared to total luggage handled; however, that small percentage represents hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of bags each year.
How, then, can you protect your luggage or at least vastly reduce the chances that it will be damaged, lost or stolen?
First, use unique-colored luggage: your black luggage before her black luggage and after his black luggage is likelier to be stolen; your burgundy luggage, not so much, because it visually sticks out.
Secondly, do not use obviously expensive luggage, because it is a more tempting target.
Third, use luggage made of sturdy material that can withstand a lot of abuse while protecting its contents.
Fourth, use luggage with wheels because it is easier to move and less likely to get dragged and tossed.
Fifth, pack your bags full (but not over-full) and light, because half-filled and overfilled bags are irregularly shaped and harder to stack while heavy bags are likelier to have handles break off and/or be thrown around by handlers.
Sixth, individually wrap breakable items with bubble wrap or equivalent protection.
Seventh, use luggage tags inside and outside your bags, because if they are lost these tags will tell airport personnel who is supposed to get them and therefore where they are supposed to be sent.
Eighth, remove old destination tags from prior trips, because if your luggage is misplaced the wrong tag may send it to the wrong destination.
Ninth, use a TSA-approved luggage lock that can be opened with a TSA master key, so you can lock your luggage but TSA won’t have to cut open your lock.
Tenth, wrap your luggage in plastic or tape, so thieves will have a tougher time quickly opening it and stealing the contents.
Eleventh, if you check multiple bags, try to use the same size and color for both, because they are likelier to be moved and stacked together.
Twelfth, check your bags 60 – 90 minutes before your first flight and avoid short connecting times between flights, so your luggage is neither sitting around to be stolen nor rushed to make it on your flight(s).
Thirteenth, consider travel insurance, which can cover your luggage and its contents up to a certain amount.
Fourteenth – and this I will personally never do because something will go wrong and I’ll be arrested – if you really want the airline to watch your luggage, pack an unloaded starter pistol and claim it before TSA examines your luggage. According to a veteran traveler who frequently does this, the airline will certainly keep an eye on your luggage and will ensure its timely delivery to the correct destination!
DO’S AND DON’TS
DO use unique-colored luggage
DON’T use obviously expensive luggage.
DO use luggage made of sturdy material.
DO use luggage with wheels.
DO pack your bags full and light.
DON’T over pack.
DO individually wrap breakable items with bubble wrap or equivalent protection.
DO use luggage tags inside and outside your bags.
DO remove old destination tags from prior trips.
DO use a TSA-approved luggage lock that can be opened with a TSA master key.
DO wrap your luggage in plastic or tape.
DO use the same size and color for simultaneously checked bags.
DO check your bags 60 – 90 minutes before your flight.
DO avoid short connection times between flights.
DO consider travel insurance.
DO pack an unloaded starter pistol and claim it before TSA examines your luggage, if you are A LOT luckier than I.
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.