While airport authorities are running security sweeps and making arrests on the service side of air travel, many travellers report having major issues with luggage tampering and theft.
OR Tambo International Airport this week scored early successes in its peak season security operations designed to detect and disrupt criminal activity when the airport is at its busiest.
Security sweeps led to the dismissal of 10 security staff caught in possession of stolen goods, while other arrests were made for a variety of crimes – from stealing to illegally entering the country.
While the clamp down in certainly good news, the arrests and dismissals were all on the service side of the airport’s operations, with nothing said of the baggage side, where many travellers express frustration at having their bags tampered with or items stolen.
December and January are prime time to travel, but also peak season for luggage thieves, says head of Auto & General, Ricardo Coetzee.
“The holiday season brings hundreds of thousands of people to airports, train stations, bus terminals and harbours globally and Auto & General Insurance urges travellers to be extra vigilant,” he said.
“Few things put more of a dampener on your holidays than when you arrive at your destination, only to discover that your bag has been pilfered and your precious belongings have gone missing. There is an even higher risk during the holiday season, as people travel with presents and larger luggage items.”
For the criminals, it’s a perfect opportunity, he said – more passengers, more bags, increased chances of delays and lost luggage, all providing further opportunities for theft.
Baggage theft and pilfering is a reality, no matter which hub you travel through, and Auto & General highlighted a number of precautionary measures you can take to help make your luggage less of a target.
Before you leave
- The way you pack your bags is important as criminals have a limited time to get in and take what they can, so place the less important items at the top of your case.
- Consider investing in luggage with secret compartments and always take your valuables – such as laptops, cameras, jewellery and credit cards – as hand luggage.
- Toiletries, such as perfume and expensive make-up, should also be taken as carry-on, just remember to abide by the restrictions on quantities you can take with you as hand luggage.
- Make your bag stand out from others, as lots of luggage appears similar. Tie a brightly coloured scarf or tie onto the handle which will make it easy to spot if it is being carried away.
- Put your identification particulars on both the inside and outside of your bag, with contact details for yourself and a next of kin.
- Be sensible with which items you take on holiday. If you don’t really need to take that expensive pair of boots or jacket, leave it at home.
At the terminal
- Locked zips, cable ties and baggage wraps are the triple threat to deter criminals. The more difficult a target your luggage is, the less likely it is that your bags will be targeted.
- Always keep an eye out for suspicious individuals. Never leave your luggage unattended and keep it in sight at all times, as opportunistic criminals can pounce at any second.
- Never entrust your luggage to someone before verifying that they are an official working for a reputable service provider.
- Avoid opening your bag and revealing what’s inside, as prying eyes may be watching. When you absolutely have to open your bag, like when being asked by an official, do so swiftly and close it again immediately.
- Don’t check your bags in too early. Your bag could be left on the side lines if you check them in very early which not only creates the opportunity for criminals to pilfer but can also result in them not being loaded.
- Get to the baggage carousel / offload point to avoid your luggage attracting unwanted attention.
- Finally, photograph your luggage prior to departing and check your bags once you arrive at your destination. That way, if anything has gone wrong, you can deal with it immediately.
“If you are unfortunate enough to be a victim of either lost, stolen or pilfered luggage, the important thing is to remain calm and act quickly. Go to the customer service desk immediately to report the problem. Also make sure that you have the correct portable possessions and travel insurance in place, in case the unforeseen does happen,” Coetzee said.