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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Yup, Still Happening

American Scofflaw

ABC News has a story, featuring an interview with an unnamed Continental Airlines employee in Houston, about baggage handlers stealing from luggage at airports.

The story cites the recent case at Bradley International and another in St. Louis where baggage handlers were charged with stealing items from passengers' luggage. It goes on with some defensive comment from Continental about how uncommon this is, but it doesn't really enlighten.

I don't want to sound cynical, and I think it's fine for ABC to warn travelers about this risk. But this has been happening for years. And it's not about Continental or Bradley or St. Louis in particular.

I have not yet had anything stolen from my luggage, but this may just be a testament to the poor quality of my belongings. I have had my bag come off the conveyer belt unzipped and with the contents disarranged and spilling out. (The airline blamed it on the TSA, and nothing was missing, so I dropped it.)

Oddly, though, I was recently accused of stealing from someone else's luggage, sort of. A fellow passenger on the Megabus from New York wanted the driver to search all the other passengers' luggage because he thought one of us had stolen something, though it wasn't clear exactly what. I was offended, which must be how an honest baggage handler feels.

Anyway, I think all we can do is to be careful. I don't check bags unless I have to. When I do, I always put electronics and jewelry in my carry-on bag. (The electronics are heavy and it makes my shoulders hurt, but that's the way it is.) And if I'm forced to put a semi-valuable souvenir in my checked bag, I pretty much just hope it doesn't get stolen. So far, so good.

Some people use TSA-approved locks, but I'm not entirely sold on that. I fear it may signal that there's something valuable inside -- when in fact, there isn't -- and that my bag will be damaged by someone trying to get into it. (This might not be a baggage handler but another traveler or someone on the street.) And in my case, the bag itself is worth more than anything in it.

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