Monday, April 18, 2005

Luggage and the US rules

Last year I wrote about the frustration of having my luggage checked by the security at JFK, New York. Today I received an email from a person with a similar, but a bit more sinister complaint. He had his luggage gone through, the TSA approved lock missing, and no notification of who had done this:
So unknown hands are opening and wandering through baggage and nobody knows or will acknowledge who the hands belong to. Nothing was missing from my bag, but I remain puzzled as to why nobody will admit they did it. Some form of notification should be required of anybody searching baggage. At least then we would know whether it was a legitimate inspection or a thief unsuccessfully searching for booty.

His situation was not the same as mine, as I was properly notified, but his email has the same flavour of insecurity and discomfort with the baggage handling on international (again, transatlantic) flights. Together with the reports of items just plain stolen from suitcases left unlocked - in order to comply with the regulations - and the fact that I now, after two such inspections need to buy a new suitcase, as the locks are pretty much shot on the one I have, this paints a less than pretty picture.

But what can we do? All I can do is to make sure I don't carry anything valuable, of sentimental value or irreplaceable in the regular luggage. Even if it isn't stolen, it can be accidentally lost as the luggage is checked. Also, I must make sure to have spare room in the suitcase. No more filling up all space with souvenirs, instead, practice travelling light. Look inside the luggage when it comes off the transport band. I can't check it into the next flight and swear nothing has been put into it, unless I look. Yeah, this part will be fun, paranoid travellers opening suitcases all over the big international airports. But as we have to carry the luggage through customs in the country of destination, I see few other options to the "who went through my luggage" dilemma. Of course, we can be un-paranoid and trusting. Like the TSA.

1 comment:

Mike V. said...

The TSA should always leave a note inside the suitcase. Suitcases that were opened but do not have such a note were probably pilfered by airlines' baggage handlers or (unfortunately) dishonest TSA employees.

We use softsided suitcases and "lock" the zippers together with 2-3 colored plastic cable ties of different colors, so we know immediately if a suitcase has been opened.

We've been fortunate so far in that TSA has alway resecured the suitcases (w/ white cable ties) and left their notes inside.