As an experienced traveler, if there is one thing I know, it’s to never leave anything of value in my check bag. Check bags are for clothing and toiletries only and maybe a bottle or two of alcohol from Duty free, otherwise, check bags are to never have money, valuables, electronics, etc in them. Most people know this; however the traveler who does not fly very often may be forgetful and is taking a great risk in having those personal valuables stolen.
Last week when flying from Malaysia on SEAIR/Tiger Airways to Clark Airport, two of my friends had items stolen from their bags! Both of their bags had items taken from their outer/sides pockets that were not locked, making the pocket an easy target for thieves! One person had their tablet charger stolen along with a lighter and the other person had $300 USD in cash stolen!
Now I know what you are all thinking, who the hell would leave money or anything of value in their check bag?! And Yes, I agree with this statement, especially an outside pocket, however the person who did so is not a frequent traveler and had forgotten the money was there until after he had checked his bag. He had remembered he had placed it there because he didn’t want to carry around a large amount of money in his pockets when we were out in the city and he felt like it was safer in the bag at the hotel room than his pocket. By the time he realized he left the money in his bag, the bag was already checked in and they were already calling for our plane to be boarded.
Immediately upon arrival at Clark airport in Manila he ran to baggage claim. No surprise, his money was gone and my other friend’s bags had items stolen for it as well. The interesting fact is, conveniently, both bags which had been tampered with were among the first two bags on the carousel. He reached into the pocket and the money was gone! They filed a report with the airline and until now the airline has basically left my two friends in the dark and told them they were out of luck. 24 hours after the incident my friend received this letter from SEAir/Tiger Airways.
Dear Mr. XXX,
Good afternoon this is to forward the copy of the Property Irregularity Report last night. I have sent an email as well to investigate on the matter to Kota Kinabalu station, but until this time no reply. We did investigate the matter here in Clark as a result all the baggage loaders and ramp personnel are being monitored by airline security during unloading of bags. No report of infringement nor slashing of bags here.
Kindly see attached files.
Almost a week later, there has been no further correspondence from the airline.
I understand the carelessness of my friend, yet at the same time I am disgusted by the employees of Tiger Airways/SEAir! Although the airline and many people, including myself would seem to shift blame towards my friends who left valuables in their luggage, there’s another take on this. As my friend said to me after the incident:
“we are paying fees on top of fees to check our bags. It is the airlines responsibility to ensure that all passengers never have to worry about their luggage once they enter that plane. All airports are required through security efforts to ensure safety of all passengers; for example, that no one carries a gun or anything harmful onto that plane. If there is so much security for the people boarding the plane, why isn’t there more security for people that handle our personal belongings? There are cameras all over the airport watching all passengers, are there camera and security personnel in the luggage areas to prevent illegal activities from going on? Think of it this way, even if nothing was taken out of my bag, what if something illegal/harmful was put into it instead (an extreme example, a bomb). You, yourself said that you don’t put locks on your bag, should I blame you or point the finger at you if something foreign is put in it and you get into trouble, of course not. Ultimately, my point is it is the airline’s and the airport’s responsibility to keep us safe and not be violated. Just because I, a new traveler, forget something in my bag, I should still be ensured to not have my bag gone through and items removed from it. And again, I emphasize, if it was that easy taking stuff out of my bag, then what makes you think travelers are safe when the workers could be putting harmful substances inside of bags. Just think baggage workers could easily smuggle drugs into an unknowing innocent traveler’s bag to have them removed by another employee at another airport, all this happening behind the scenes. But of course, if the bag was to be picked up by security, the person who checked it would be the one to blame, since it was their bag with the drugs in it. Anyway, If they can thwart anything unsafe and protect the thousands of passenger that walk in and out of that airport daily, why can’t this kind of unlawful thing be prevented when there’s only a very limited crew of people in custody of our personal belongings? If each member handling our luggage were to leave all their personal items in a locker and be subjected to a pat down when leaving the premise, matters such as stealing can be prevented easily. Money comes and goes but the trust in Tiger Airways is long gone.”
After the conversation I had with my friend, there’s a large part of me that completely agrees. He brought up a point that I had never thought of before, the fact that they could place items into our bags, not only remove items.
Despite this, I advise each and every one of you to use caution when flying and checking luggage! This type of thing can happen anywhere on any airline! ALWAYS use locks on your bags. Zenbackpacking provides you with a number of options for your luggage security and covers all lock types and the good and the bad of each one. Shop around, but this is one investment I would highly recommend! If you are backpacking use a mesh netting that can be secured around the outside of your bag. I personally have never used baggage locks before, but I have decided to invest in them for the future. Furthermore, due to this incidence, I now know that I will not be choosing Tiger Airways for any flight in the future, nor will my friends and family.