Making sure your bag arrives when you do is largely up to what happens to it between the time you see it off on the conveyer belt at check-in and when it pops out of the delivery shute onto the baggage carousel in the arrival hall at your destination.
However, there are a few things you can do to make sure there is a happy reunion in the said Arrival Hall.
Make it unappealing to those who may seek to part you from it
First, a story: Recently a friend returned from the US, via a transit airport, where she had a very short layover, so her bags were given a priority tag to ensure they reached her destination when she did. She made sure she was quickly through Immigration formalities and waiting when the bags started appearing on the carousel. As she watched for her bag, a well dressed young man, also waiting, stepped up and lifted a bag off the carousel and made his way towards the Customs desk.
At that point a couple approaching the carousel noticed the young man and ran over to him and said that the bag he had was theirs. The young man apologised and returned the bag to them. He then returned to the carousel to wait for ‘his bag’. As my friend was curious to see if ‘his bag’ was similar to the one he had ‘mistakenly’ collected, she decided to watch and see what happened. The next bag he collected was quite different. I leave you, dear reader to suggest a reason for this.
This same friend also recounted how a pilot she knows had a similar ‘case of mistaken identity’ of his luggage in the same airport. He decided however, that, rather than call the person out straight away, he would wait until he reached the customs check, at which point he alerted the Customs and other officials, who dealt with the man. The airport is not named, because this is a scenario that could be replicated in many airports. So what can we do to ensure we collect our bag as planned?
Making sure your bag arrives
- Use an easily identifiable bag. If you’re buying a new bag, why not get a lime green or bright red one? Something you’ll be able to see as soon as it appears on the carousel. If your current bag is a boring black or dark blue, use a brightly coloured strap or perhaps a bright ribbon easily seen from a distance, tied on the handle. We’ve even heard of one chap who painted his own face on the bag.
- Don’t waste time getting to the Carousel. Of course, it’s difficult judging how long you’ll take passing through Immigration controls and so on, but if you are passing through a Domestic airport where there aren’t such ‘roadblocks’ or Duty-Free stores to distract, you should get there as soon as possible to be waiting when the bags start to arrive. If you really must stop by the Duty-Free store, make it a quick stop, or if you’re with a companion, one should stay and the other go and collect the bags.
- Don’t pack anything valuable inside. There have been cases where potential thieves have been alerted to target bags with valuable contents, by workers manning scanners before the carousel.
- Don’t assume everyone standing around the carousel is waiting for their own bag from your flight. Even if they are well dressed. Be aware and take your bag as soon as it goes around.
Make it difficult to open
Apart from wrapping your bag to ensure nothing goes missing, or reduce the change of damage there are a few other potential areas of weakness depending on the type of bag you carry.
If you have a zippered bag, be aware that, they can be opened quite quickly and easily with a ballpoint pen:
Even your combination locked bag can be opened, though it would take a little longer and would likely be done by a thief with more time available:
So – what should you do?
Apart from the advice above, it’s probably a good idea to get a bag which uses both combination and key locks. If you have a zippered bag, look for one that has a combination lock built in as well as a place to add a lock (keyed or combination). A potential thief will find it difficult to open the suitcase fully as the combination lock is unable to move all the way around. This also stops the bag from being zipped back again to remove evidence of tampering.
Remember – don’t be paranoid, be careful and aware. Happy travelling!
Originally posted as “Keep an eye on that bag!”