Should I lock my suitcase when I fly? Luggage security when travelling

Some do it religiously, others say "What's the point?

You can see a YouTube video on how to open a zippered case without breaking the lock, why bother?"

While it's also true that most luggage locks are too flimsy to withstand a determined thief, and assuming a larcenist in the luggage-shuffling area doesn't have a lot of time, a lock might at least direct their attention to an unlocked bag.

Surprisingly, American Airlines suggests "Do not lock your baggage due to Transportation Security Administration screening of every checked bag."

Even if you don't have anything particularly valuable in your checked luggage, if some items should go missing and you subsequently make a claim against your travel insurance, it could be that neglecting to lock your case might be deemed a failure to take the necessary steps to safeguard your property, and void your claim.

Another reason to have a lock: it's handy to put your valuables in your case and lock it up when you don't have a room safe.


Bag wrapping services are now common at international airports around the world.

For a fee of about $10-15 your checked baggage can be wrapped in several layers of clingy plastic film before you head for the check-in counter. The main motivation is security. If you have any reason to fear that your bag might be opened and belongings pilfered during transit, wrapping it in plastic provides an extra layer of protection.


However you're also saying "goods worth stealing inside". If they can get away with slicing the plastic wrap off in some quiet corner a thief might think it more worth their while to go for one wrapped in plastic than the cheap-looking, well-travelled one that isn't.

A wrapped bag that appears unwrapped when it plonks onto the baggage carousel is not necessarily a sure sign you've been done over. It could also be that security has opened the bag, but you're right to be alarmed.

Another motivation is to protect your luggage. Rough handling, weather during loading and liquid spills from other passengers' luggage all take their toll. Backpacks and other luggage with multiple straps can get caught up in the baggage handling mechanism, another reason to wrap.

Finally, local knowledge. Some airports are known for baggage pilferage. If you see plenty of locals having their bags wrapped it's a hint that you should consider doing the same.


Do you suffer separation anxiety when your baggage trundles away?

There's a frisson of fear some of us feel watching our luggage disappear down the conveyor belt at the check-in desk - will we see it again? Take heart - the loss rate for checked baggage continues to fall thanks to ever-improving tracking technology.

According to the 2018 Baggage Report from SITA, which provides IT solutions to the transport industry, the rate of mishandled bags was 5.57 for every 1000 passengers in 2017. That figure is almost 3 per cent less than the previous year, and down 70 per cent compared to 2007.

Most of those mishandled bags are not irretrievably lost but delayed. The overwhelming majority are reunited with their rightful owners, usually within a day or two.

Nearly half of all cases of delayed bags occurred between connecting flights, particularly those with tight time frames.

Where is your airline luggage most likely to go missing? Europe. According to SITA, for every 1000 passengers flying in Europe, 6.94 bags were lost in 2017, well above the global average.

Hopefully technology will come to the rescue. International Air Transport Association Resolution 753, which came into force in June 2018, implements cross-industry tracking for every baggage journey.

Airline members are now required to track baggage at four key points: at the passenger handover at the check-in desk, at the aircraft loading point, at delivery to the transfer area and when the baggage is returned to the passenger, all done via sensors that read the barcodes on luggage labels.

See also: Three hours or two? The perfect time to arrive at the airport for your flight

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