airlines lost and found
Airline baggage theft: The most common place for carry-on and checked baggage theft

The scene, Milas-Bodrum Airport in southern Turkey, just arrived. As I exit the terminal into a soggy afternoon I open my luggage to get a jacket but when I reach for the lock, there isn’t one. And one of the eyes on the zipper pulls has been wrenched apart.

With a queasy feeling, I unzip the bag and there’s the combination lock, twisted off and tossed inside. What’s no longer inside my bag is a Nikon zoom lens and much worse, a portable hard drive with all the images from my trip through Georgia stored on it.

When had it happened? I’d taken two flights before I discovered the pilferage, one Georgian Airways lost and found flight from Tbilisi in Georgia to Istanbul, then another aboard Turkish Airlines lost and found to Bodrum, with a tight connection in Istanbul made even tighter when my baggage – along with that of about 10 other passengers – was suspiciously late arriving at the carousel.

“Never pack valuables in your checked-in luggage”. It’s one of the mantras of travel, but there are times when not everything valuable fits into your carry-ons. Then again, you take dozens of flights, your bag always arrives intact so you get complacent. Trusting. The stories of baggage theft must be overstated, right? But fly often enough and one day you’re going to get hit.

See also: How to avoid having your things stolen from your carry-on bags

Once you say “see you later” to your bag at the check-in desk and it heads off down the conveyor belt it’s going to pass through a number of hands, with opportunities for pilferage up to and including the time it flops onto a baggage carousel at the other end.

Statistics relating to the incidence of baggage theft are hard to come by. Airlines aren’t interested, it’s the job of airports to maintain security in baggage handling operations so they say. Airlines don’t have a clue how many bags are tampered with since thefts don’t get reported to them.

Airports do have a clue but they’re not saying since negative reports could only damage their brand. It’s only when systematic bag theft is unmasked – or when a baggage handler puts on a camel suit swiped from a passenger’s luggage and drives across the tarmac as happened at Sydney Airport in 2005 – that the issue comes to light.

Insurers are one potential source of information but their figures are not related to the total number of travellers. Is it 25 thefts from luggage reported per 50,000 passengers or per 5 million?

However, sting operations conducted in baggage handling areas and anecdotal evidence from passengers put the finger on some off the worst airports, and some of the most astonishing reports come from the US. Not surprising perhaps, since the US alone accounts for nearly a third of all the 3.5 billion air passenger movements recorded

In 2013, after El Al passengers reported jewellery, computers, iPads and phones disappearing from checked luggage at New York’s JFK International Airport lost and found, the airline set up a hidden camera in the baggage hold of a 747 and busted seven baggage handlers red-handed.

In 2015 a Transport Security Administration agent at the same airport was arrested and charged after she pocketed a $7000 diamond encrusted watch that a passenger accidentally left in a basket at the X-ray machine.

Some of the worst offenders in the US have been TSA employees, the very ones whose job is to open passengers’ luggage in the name of airport security. In an analysis of claims filed with the TSA for lost property between 2010 to 2014, CNN reported 30,621 cases of missing valuables. More than 25,000 of those were from checked luggage, another 5000 went missing at security checkpoints.

The TSA has fired 29 employees at Miami International Airport lost and found, 27 at New York’s JFK International Airport and 24 at Los Angeles International Airport, all accused of trousering personal effects from passengers’ suitcases. In one of the most celebrated transgressions, a TSA screener at Los Angeles International Airport was accused of stealing a $100,000 watch from Paris Hilton’s bag.

It’s easy to find web chatter decrying lost luggage in one airport or another, and there are common themes. Theft from passengers’ luggage has been an ongoing problem at Johannesburg’s O. R. Tampa Airport lost and found or many years.

Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport is another happy hunting ground for light-fingered larcenists. In 2015, items believed to have been stolen from passengers’ bags were discovered in the lockers of six baggage handlers at NAIA. The swag included jewellery, watches, blankets and even TSA-approved padlocks. Seems the baggage handlers had the keys, giving them easy access to any cases with TSA locks.

The boom area in airline theft involves passengers’ carry-ons, caused by fellow passengers thieving from carry-on bags stored in overhead luggage compartments. This is a profitable target since laptops, cameras, jewellery and wallets are most likely to be stashed in carry-on bags.

One lucrative target that has not been mined to any great extent by the thieving community is business class lounges.

There’s an assumption that business-class travellers are above common pilferage. The clubby atmosphere promotes a feeling of honourable camaraderie, “an assumption that people like us don’t do that sort of thing” in the words of one frequent business traveller.

Business travellers will leave briefcases, phones and laptops sitting on tables when they head for the buffet table. Quite often there is an unattended storage area where lounge guests can stow their bags. How easy would it be for a thief to casually walk off with the goodies, and perhaps palm them off to accomplices on the outside?

Latest Post

Where does all the abandoned luggage at DIA lost and found go?
Custodian accused of stealing guitar left at Jacksonville Airport lost and found Christmas Day
Rejjee Modernizes Lost and Found at US Airports Coast to Coast
Brisbane Airport’s Lost Property Auction to help kids through The Courier-Mail Children’s Fund
Lost Luggage? Here’s How to Handle It- British Airways lost property
Annual public auction at Pittsburgh International Airport lost and found scheduled
A day in the life of Cork Airport Lost Property units
Remember that lost memory stick from Heathrow Airport lost property? The terrorist’s wet dream? So does the ICO
What’s lost at Palm Beach International Airport and not found, gets sold or donated
Belfast International Airport lost and found is full of surprises
Forgotten Gold Coast airport lost and found belongings go to good cause
Passenger accuses Air Canada lost and found of dangerously poor lost-baggage security
How long are TSA lines at Sea-Tac ? Check the airport’s new app- Seattle-Tacoma Airport lost and found
Airport cops, security officers recognized after returning P1.5 M to passenger-Puerto Princesa International Airport lost and found
Should airline reimburse couple who waited for lost luggage? Norwegian Air lost and found
Kansai airport lost and found to give souvenirs for unwanted suitcases
AirPods are lost easily and, in some cases, miraculously found
Cash, wedding rings and live animals: Inside Dublin Airport lost and found
Airport staff return girl’s lost soft toy after taking it on ‘awesome’ adventure – Norfolk International Airport lost and found
Tweet Over Stuffed Animal Lost in Boston’s Logan Airport Goes Viral
Graeme McDowell explains lost clubs fiasco- Charles de Gaulle Airport lost and found
Cat Mysteriously Escapes Crate on BWI Airport Tarmac, Is Later Found Dead — and Owner Blames TSA
Lost phone found inside bag
At the Airport Already? Make Some Extra Cash Delivering Lost Luggage for Delta lost and found
Norfolk Airport auctioning off lost & found items, abandoned vehicles
Lost your luggage while flying? Here’s what to do
The Museum of ‘Please Find Me’ – JFK Airport lost and found
United Airlines pilot flies lost wedding ring over 2,500 miles to owner
Girl’s lost teddy flown 200 miles home to Orkney from Edinburgh lost property
Kitten adopted after being found at Orlando International Airport lost and found
Karaoke stand, walking sticks up for grabs in Brisbane airport lost property auction
As CVG’s volume increases, so does amount of stuff left behind- Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport lost and found
Registration Begins Wednesday For Massive Government Auction-McCarran International Airport Lost and Found
You might find a great deal at the Pittsburgh airport lost and found auction
Abandoned cars along with lost and found items to be auctioned at Norfolk International Airport lost and found
Sydney Airport lost and found auction benefits local charities
Cat ‘lost’ at Dubai airport reunited with UK owners- Dubai Airport lost and found
LAX airport Lost and Found facility, and his missing keys
Glasgow Airport lost property aims to reunite children with their lost toys
Honest immigration officer lauded for returning lost $1,900
Sharjah man returns Dh100,000 lost at Sharjah airport
Tucson airport workers help return Houston football player’s lost ring
Over 7,000 volunteers serve Hajj pilgrims at Jeddah airport
Teddy bear lost at Dallas airport reunited with little boy after family’s plea
Phuket van driver returns large sum of lost cash to tourist -Phuket Airport lost and found
Couple still waiting on luggage in Orkney following Manchester Airport security alert
Strollers, TV among ‘lost and found’ items at Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Lost in transit: How not to spend 24 hours at Singapore’s Changi Airport
10 pounds of marijuana found in suitcase at Louis Armstrong airport
Luggage missing at the airport? Here’s what to do
Passenger sought after R9m tik found in bag at Cape Town International Airport
Grieving mother sues American Airlines for allegedly losing daughter’s ashes
Irish family gets stuck in airport limbo in Barcelona
Lost dog WestJet put on wrong flight found safe near Hamilton airport
John Legend’s bag stolen at JFK Airport; Suspect charged with grand larceny
Airline baggage theft: The most common place for carry-on and checked baggage theft
3,000 items lost monthly at Sea-Tac Airport
A Look Inside Washington Airport lost and found
Tugade gives honest men at airport bear hugs and checks
Cork airport is desperately trying to reunite this lost pink teddy bear with its owners
RM1 million drugs discovered in KL International Airport’s lost and found department
Lost and found operations highlighted at McGhee-Tyson Airport
BNA offers look at lost and found
Pet hamster, bed frame among ‘strangest things’ left behind at Changi Airport
Girl reunited with beloved teddy bear lost in chaos of deadly Florida airport shooting
Appeal to reunite lost Luton airport lost property ‘teddy’ with owner takes off
Frustrated travelers, 20K lost items as Fla. airport resumes operations
This is what happens to your luggage if you leave it at Cardiff Airport
From a Forest season ticket to glass eyes – the unusual things left behind in lost property
Finding hope in an Donald Sangster International Airport
Weird DIA lost and found items: 70-inch TV, chainsaw (Video)
A toilet and cistern, an urn with ashes and a puppy – Here are some of the things that go missing at Dublin Airport
Sonoma County Airport seeks owner of a Purple Heart
Airline worker and girl’s lost teddy bear share epic adventure at DTW
Lost and Found: How to Get Back Items Left at Airport Security Checkpoints
MIA’s lost, found and auctioned event raises over €9,000 for Inspire
Auction at Matla airport lost and found is back
Houston woman’s dog lost in Mexico City airport found thanks to Interjet
A Shocking Number of People Leave Laptops Behind at Airport Security Checkpoints
A plea to help stranded travellers — the stuffed kind — at the Halifax airport
Newlywed Who Lost Wedding Ring at LaGuardia Airport Will Get It Back in Time for Thanksgiving
The TSA Instagram account is a treasure trove of insane items travelers try to get through airport security.
K9 unit rescues mini pinscher abandoned at Naia
Airport worker returns congresswoman’s pouch with over P100K cash
Airport security could add £500 to the cost of your holiday
Buyers snap up things airport travelers leave behind
There’s a giant store in Alabama that sells your lost luggage to strangers
Airport handyman climbed through soffit to steal from lost and found room
Pittsburgh airport lost and found to auction lost, abandoned items
Lost and forgotten luggage to be auctioned off for charity by Sydney Airport lost and found
Strange range of lost items at KL International Airport lost and found
What happens to lost items at the airport
South Florida airport’s lost and found now includes a mannequin
Iguanas on a plane: WestJet flight grounded in Toronto after reptiles lost aboard the aircraft
A rare look inside Sacramento Airport lost and found
Manila Ninoy Aquino Airport workers win recognition
Darwin airport turns to social media to find owners of old photo album
Even seasoned travelers leave money behind at TSA checkpoints
Rogue Valley International Airport donates unclaimed lost and found items
What happens to stuff you lose at Dubai airport?

Closely Works With OVER 11,000 AIRPORTS AND AIRLINES Worldwide!