How unpleasant can it be to arrive to your destination and discover that your bag was opened and some of your valuables are missing?

To be honest, not very pleasant.

A few days ago after a quick trip to Barcelona, I took advantage of some spare Avios to fly in Business Class with Iberia to Madrid and a transit (with a separate ticket) with LATAM Airlines from Madrid to Frankfurt on the many times reported service aboard their Flagship Boeing 787.

After arriving in Madrid T4, I proceeded directly to the Velasquez Lounge as my bag was checked in already to the final destination and my boarding pass to Frankfurt was already printed by Iberia. With this in mind, the flight left on-time and we arrived at Frankfurt before schedule at 17:45. I made my way to the baggage claim area in a matter of minutes.

When my bag appeared on the belt, I was shocked to find that the TSA Approved lock was missing.This did not look good at all. After taking a deep breath, I opened the bag and found that all my belongings had been moved around.

I could not believe this, I was robbed during the transit in Madrid Barajas Airport.

The following personal items were taken:

  • two watches
  • two perfumes
  • one pair of new sneakers
  • two Lacoste T-Shirts

They even took the time to select what they wanted to take. Where were the Closed Caption TV cameras? The supervisor of the area? The security that is supposed to be at maximum level nowadays in Europe?

I approached the LATAM Baggage desk and filed a claim, to my surprise the agent told me that it was quite common to receive complaints about Madrid concerning baggage. Having experience as a Commercial Pilot, a frequent traveller and a student in Safety and Security how can it be possible that ”sterile” areas of an airport can be taken by thief’s to steal the belongings from the public that trust an airline,  an airport and a service and be crashed into this reality…How can this be possible?

I am in the middle of a dispute with LATAM (which is responsible as the last carrier to transport my belongings) to negotiate an amount that will cover at least the value of what was taken from my baggage, but is this enough?

International regulations and conventions dictate the limit of liability by the air carriers towards passengers as part of the transportation contract. I believe that in first place, more supervision and selection of staff at airport ”sterile” areas has to be improved. Airlines need to supervise baggage transit delivery in airports where it is well known that this sort of things happen ie. Madrid, Miami, Barcelona, Cairo etc. to name a few. Secondly, beside the monetary compensation there has to be a formal apologise because it just does not feel right that your property was handled by strange hands and on top they carefully select what to take away from your bags… today it was an ”x” amount of personal belongings but for some of you my fellow readers could mean more in money or personal items and that you must be aware that it does not make a difference if you put a lock or not…it is in risk of being stolen anyway.


What can we do to protect our property?

I cannot suggest what to do in these cases, just have good luck. We know that passengers are not allowed to take 100ml. or more of liquids in the carry on bags but then if you carry such liquids  (perfumes, expensive anti aging treatments etc) these carry the risk of being taken away by staff working behind the scene in the ”secure” areas of an airport.

Keep your most valuable belongings with you at all times and just cross your fingers that you will not be surprised in a baggage belt by some kind of vandalism happening behind the check in counters at some major International Airport.

Do not waste time, as soon as you discover something is missing you need to report it to the airline staff right away. You will need to fill out a form and in some cases report the missing items to the Airport Police in order to make it more formal. The airline will process your claim in accordance to the Montreal Convention and you should be able to get some sort of compensation.

Remember, your valuables must travel with you at all times and it is a good practice to keep the original receipts because for valuables your air carrier will need a copy of the voucher/receipt in order to compensate your stolen item.


The Executive Pilot.

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