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Travel Haven Tips – Concerned About Baggage Claim Security?

Recent news about the theft of nearly 1,000 pieces of luggage at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has many travelers worrying over baggage security, especially with the busy holiday travel season nearing.

It is the airline’s responsibility to ensure checked bags are returned to their owners, but who cares more about your items than you? While checked bags are more often strayed than stolen, travelers are wise to worry about the security of their luggage. In September, according to the Department of Transportation, travelers filed more than 131,000 mishandled baggage reports; more than 1.6 million reports have been filed in 2009.

Until the late 1990s, standard practice was for airline employees to match claim checks to luggage tags before they left baggage claim. That link in the security chain was broken when airlines slashed their budgets. Unlike the cancellation of in-flight meals though, few passengers complained about cutbacks at the carousels.

Positive claim check was something customers didn’t really like. Many were irritated at waiting in line to be checked out of bag claim. Generally, grab-and-go at the baggage claim works. According to the Air Transport Association the actual loss of a bag is unusual and a theft is even more unlikely. The ATA insists its member airlines have adequate security systems in place to protect luggage – which they choose not to discuss to avoid compromising their methods.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is increasing security patrols and video surveillance in baggage claim. The airport is also instituting random checks to make sure claim tickets match bag tags, and will air announcements warning passengers to be prepared to show identification. But because baggage theft is so rare, airlines find it cheaper to pay lost-bag claims than hire staff to check bag tags.

Here are few tips to increase the chances you’ll get your bags at the end of the journey:

  • Ditch the detours: It can be tempting to eat, make a phone call, or shop on the way to the baggage claim area after your flight, but it’s best to be there when the carousel starts rolling.
  • Work in teams: If someone is meeting you, have them come to baggage-claim to help corral those suitcases. You can even send a photo of your bag using the camera in your cell phone, in case you’re delayed between the gate and the carousel.
  • Say it with style: Some bags really are taken by mistake because so many bags look alike. So a really obvious marker can help your bag stand out. Most importantly, you’ll notice right away if someone else tries to walk off with your bag.
  • Avoid it entirely: Worries about security, as well as checked-bag fees and waiting at the luggage-go-round, are several reasons to pack lightly enough to get away with just a carry-on.

Keep in mind that trip insurance often includes payment for lost or delayed luggage.