I know you’re still enjoying the “Best of MJ on Travel” while I vacation aboard Mariner of the Seas. But I know you want current content too. Fellow Boardingarea.com blogger Steven Frischling of Flying With Fish has graciously agreed to author a guest post while I’m away. He calls it “How Airport Thieves Operate and How to Avoid Being a Target.” It’s a fantastic post, and I know you’ll enjoy it.
When Marshall asked me to write a guest post while he was out sitting on
the deck of the Mariner Of The Seas sucking back brightly coloured drinks
and losing his money on Deck 4 at the Casino Royale in the evenings I
began to write an off-the-cuff humourous guest post about airline travel.
My post changed a few days ago in light of a baggage theft ring being
busted at Phoenix Sky Harbor Int’l Airport, where police found 1,000
stolen bags in a couple’s home.
I chose to change my post as I have been researching airport thieves for
quite a few years and have even had the opportunity to directly interest
with those who make their living stealing from passengers in airports.
Surprisingly the airport thieves I interacted with were quite honest about
how they go about their days…
…so with that knowledge in mind, I thought I might share some
information on how to avoid having your baggage stolen by an airport
Airport thieves who target baggage work quickly and effectively. These
thieves blend in, generally dressing like a business traveller, often
carrying their own backpack or brief case to blend in. Some thieves go so
far as to tuck an old boarding pass or ticket jacket into a pocket that is
just visible enough to law enforcement so they don’t garner a second look
as they search for bags to walk off with.
The most commonly stolen bags by airport thieves are black ballistic nylon
roller bags. Why back ballistic nylon roller bags? Because these types of
bags make up more than 90% of the baggage travellers fly with. Black
ballistic nylon bags blend in; a bag can be snatched and wheeled off into
a crowd without ever being noticed.
While many bags are snatched right off the baggage carousel, surprisingly
many are also stolen after they are taken off the belt. Many passengers
with more than one bag pull the bag from the carousel then place it behind
themselves while waiting for another bag. Experienced airport thieves
often ‘size-up’ their target, often women, based on clothing, glasses,
handbag, etc before making their move on a pre-removed piece of baggage.
Airport thieves are also well aware of certain brands that carry expensive
equipment that are designed to blend in, such as the Lowe Pro Pro-Roller
bags and Think Tank bags used by photographers. These bags look like
other bags, except those who make their living stealing from airports
knows certain brand types and the contents these bags often carry.
So how can you avoid being the target of an airport baggage thief? Here
are a few simple suggestions I have created based on my experience, as
well as having spoken with experienced airport thieves.
1) When possible avoid purchasing and travelling with a black ballistic
nylon bag. If you do purchase a black ballistic nylon bag label your bag
brightly with extremely visible tape or marking. A bag that is brightly
marked is easily identifiable and very hard to walk away with, without
2) When choosing how to mark you bags keep in mind that paint-markers are
highly visible on black ballistic nylon and they do not fade Also duct
tape is the most durable. When using tape place the tape in very visible
areas and in multiple areas so the markings are never hidden and difficult
to cover up.
3) If you travel with a task-specific bag, such as a Pelican Case or a
photography shipping case, make sure the bag is both extremely visible and
identifiable and when possible place that bag inside a non-descript bag
(that should also be clearly marked and visible.) Placing a Pelican case
that would draw a thief’s attention inside a duffle bag is an ideal way to
avoid becoming a baggage thief’s target.
4) After deplaning head straight to the baggage carousel and position
yourself as close as possible to the exit of the baggage chute. If the
baggage carousel is crowded, position yourself in an area where you have a
clear view of the bags exiting. If you have clearly marked your bags
you’ll see it coming ouy.
5) If you have checked multiple bags stack them in front of you while
waiting for additional bags. Stacking bags behind yourself leaves you
open to having them stolen, while bags placed in front of you keep them in
your line of sight at all times.
I personally mark nearly all my bags with bright flamingo pink duct tape.
Tape is placed on all the handles, all the zipper-pulls and anywhere else
I can secure it. Some bags have both bright pink tape and my name written
in very large letters in bright yellow paint marker
Below is a photo of my Pelican case inside a Mountainsmith duffle bag and
one of my very clearly labeled black ballistic nylon bags.
Travel safe…and Happy Flying!