Luggage Security Considerations

Luggage Collection area in an airport

Having your luggage lost, or compromised with items stolen, is a gut-wrenching experience.

Statistics are scarce with regards the number of thefts and damaged luggage but trends indicate that levels of security breaches are reducing.

This is largely due to the increased security considerations around airports nowadays introduced to combat the terrorist threats that are unfortunately a part of the world we live in today.

If you pack well (how to plan and pack well for your travels) then every item packed is integral to your travel plans irrespective of monetary value. Valuable items are best carried in cabin luggage, having said that you may have items you were not allowed to, or unable to, take in cabin luggage that are very expensive. So what security considerations for your luggage should you consider?

Cabin Luggage Security Considerations

It is easy to focus all security concerns on your checked luggage; after all it disappears into the airport ‘black hole’ at check in only to reappear (hopefully) when at your destination’s baggage reclaim carousel.

However cabin luggage security should not be overlooked. Instances of theft and loss on board an aircraft do happen. It is highly probable that some of your highest costing items such as laptops, tablets, cameras etc. will be in your hand luggage and no matter how hard you try to eyeball your bag you will inevitably have to sleep and answer natures call.

It is therefore worth investing is some practical carry on bags or cases. It is worth investing in a lock for your cabin luggage (if it does not have an integral one in its design).

You may have to open it a few times during your journey but this can be conducted surreptitiously and will give you that extra peace of mind and the necessary security required.

Checked/Hold Luggage Security Considerations

It may be stating the obvious but your first line of defense for your checked bag or suit case’s security is the construction of the bag or case itself. Even with the gentlest baggage handlers your luggage will be subjected to a fair amount of stress.

Keeping the integrity of the case in tact is paramount, our reviews of the best hard shell and soft shell luggage detail the most robust and affordable deigns.

The case doesn’t necessarily have to cost a fortune but it is definitely worth ensuring that you do not have any cracks or worn seams in good time prior to your planned vacation or business trip.

Luggage Security Locks

Having a quality lock for your luggage is important. If you are flying in or out of the United States then you will have to have a Travel Security Association (TSA) approved lock.

This will allow the government authorities to open and examine the contents of your case should they wish to do so. You can have an external lock as shown below but nowadays many carry on and checked luggage suitcases have TSA approved locks integrated into the bag’s body. You can also get locks incorporated into luggage straps.

Luggage Wrapping

You may have seen people transporting what appears to be a lump of plastic around the airport. Cellophane wrapping has become a popular but is it worth it?

My definitive and conclusive answer is, I’m not sure. Bearing in mind your luggage could be examined at any point meaning the wrapping would be cut off does it offer an added sense of security?

I have no facts to back this observation up but I do wonder if more wrapped cases, as a percentage, are examined compared to those that are not.

Would wrapping stop someone who seriously wanted access to your case? I suppose that depends on the opportunistic nature of any attempted theft. I would think air side that if someone really wanted access to your case they would probably have the time and organisation to conduct the crime should they so wish.

Personally, I think wrapping is probably more of luggage prevention method than an effective security measure but for around $15 (and some suppliers offer insurance within the price) it is relatively inexpensive and if it gives you a sense of security then go ahead.

For the price I would use the professional service rather than try and wrap my case on my own, I have a feeling it would not look anywhere as neat, judging by my inability to wrap any food stuffs effectively with cling film!

Luggage Straps

Luggage straps are in the same category for me as wrapping. They probably draw less attention from a security perspective. Quality straps are required so that they can be wrapped and secured around your luggage effectively ensuring they don’t become detached and flap around, inevitably leading to them being lost.

I think straps are quite good for identification purposes if you are looking for a swift baggage reclaim game but again I am not convinced they add necessarily to the security of your luggage.

Luggage Tracking

GPS has become part of our everyday lives and the luggage market is no exception. There are a large number of devices now on the market where a tracking device is either placed in the luggage or is an integral part of the case. This is linked to your mobile device with by means of an app.

Although GPS is the most popular method there are also models that use Global System for Mobile (GSM) that triangulates the devices position, Bluetooth and wifi.

Models vary in price from $10 up to the $120+ mark with some requiring a subscription for the accompanying app.

There are some issues with the effectiveness of these methods when luggage spends most of its time in concrete and steel constructions not known for great signals.

These trackers may be useful for identifying when your luggage has gone to the wrong airport but in my opinion unless you travel a lot then I would not bother.

(Expert World Travel)

Luggage Labels

If your luggage does go awry or the label attached by the airline becomes detached (unlikely but does happen) then a good label with your name and address details is worth the investment. This will give you as good a chance as any of the airline being able to re-unite you with your luggage.

Summary of Security Best Practices

  • Use your Carry On Luggage wherever possible for expensive or valuable goods.
  • Keep Valuables even closer - If you are carrying valuables such as jewelry, money etc. then where at all possible keep them on your person. Pay particular attention when passing through security and when drowsy in the plane or when within the airport terminal. 
  • Pack Well - Don't take items, especially valuable items if they are not really required for your trip.
  • Get the balance right - You want your luggage to be secure but not standing out so as to draw unwanted attention. Make sure you can identify your bags whether that be through a strap or subtle ribbon etc.
  • Prepare for the worse - Before you travel make sure you know what valuables you are carrying and also take pictures of your luggage. Ideally you should have receipts for items being carried and your luggage.
  • Be Insured - It is imperative to insure yourself and your goods when you travel. Some credit cards/bank accounts etc. contain some travel insurance so check these first before purchasing cover but either way make sure you are.
  • What If Things Go Wrong

  • Report to the Airline if your baggage does not turn up. There is a possibility that your luggage will be located and you will be reunited. It may not be straight away but can be forwarded to your destination if found.
  • Follow the Airlines Claim Process - Make sure you follow the claims process in a timely fashion. This is when your preparation will come into affect. Provide photos and receipts of items that were within your lost/stolen luggage. 
  • File a Police Claim or Log with the TSA - This can be used for lost or damaged luggage. It may be the case that your luggage does arrive but has been tampered with and some items are missing. In this case you should also file a claim.
  • Get the balance right - You want your luggage to be secure but not standing out so as to draw unwanted attention. Make sure you can identify your bags whether that be through a strap or subtle ribbon etc.
  • Prepare for the worse - Before you travel make sure you know what valuables you are carrying and also take pictures of your luggage. Ideally you should have receipts for items being carried and your luggage.
  • File Insurance Claim - You should have checked what you were covered for when you take out insurance so there may be some recompense you can gain through your insurers. Again your receipts and pictures will be invaluable here.
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