Airport baggage

What stops thieves from just picking up someones suitcase and walking out of the airport. It seems like a lucrative activity for criminals, especially considering the sort of things people pack in there like laptops. So is this a big problem in airports and if it so then how is it combated.

Don’t know if it’s a problem, but I would think the big deterrent is that the owner of the luggage is probably nearby. Along with this, there is a lot of security (police and cameras) at an airport, and getting away might be a bit difficult. Plus, I would imagine that most luggage just contains clothing, so the odds of getting something worth the risk might be pretty slim (everyone I know uses carry on for electronics/valuables).

When I flew into La Guardia two or three years ago, the guard at the exit from the baggage carousels area demanded to see both the luggage tag and the check tag on our tickets. Considering the location near downtown, no surprise. This was the only time I have seen it checked.

I have seen all sorts of baggage areas, from the isolated ones (Toronto Airport) where non-passengers are not allowed, to wide open ones like Newark. La Guardia, IIRC, was a waist-high fence without gates between the outside public and the baggage area.

Two things, I suppose - nobody checks valuables, as a rule, because there are people deep in the private secluded areas of the airport who X-ray your luggage and can then help themselves to whatever looks good. (Toronto was notorious for luggage contents theft a few years ago, and of course Air Canada cared about zero). Cameras, laptops, jewelry etc. probably don’t go in checked baggage. Grabbing a random bag and then trying to fence a bunch of used clothes and half-used toiletries is probably not a lucrative source of income, even if the thieves don’t look typecast.

I was asked for a claim check in Las Vegas once, but that’s the only time. I do check my laptop and camera, but I imagine the odds of the owner being next to a bag when you grab it vs the odds the bag has something other than dirty clothing doesn’t make it worth it.

I don’t think it is a big problem. My WAG is that when the airlines have many claims for lost baggage, then they will institute proof for claimed bags. Right now it is cheaper to pay for lost baggage than provide checkers.

I fly fairly often, and I agree, I see it very infrequently. A few years ago, I’d see it done at O’Hare semi-regularly, but not at all in the past few years.

Have you SEEN what people wear on their holidays? :eek:

Plus, if there was anything worth stealing in there TSA agents would have already nicked it.

That was funny! +10

Not that many years ago there were airport personnel checking bags with tags as you left the claim area. Can only assume it’s not considered a problem anymore. Wonder what changed, other than cutting back on expenses?

Even 20 years ago it was fairly rare. San Diego did it, hardly anyone else. It creates a bottleneck, it is hard to enforce (a thief can easily slip through) it cost money, and as has been said stealing bags is risky.

Baggage handlers can look in bags for good stuff. A baggage claim thief has to try to pick one blind in the middle of lots of people who can stop him and make it hard for him to get away.

I don’t recall hearing about bags stolen from carousels. Actually, there is often a pile of left over bags which would be much safer to nick.

Many airports were checking luggage tags vs. claim tags. Just until 9/11/2001. On that date, everything changed and nobody gave a crap about already traveled luggage.


I’ve been to dozens & dozens of airports all over the U.S. and all over the world. Nobody has ever, ever checked our bag tag or ID at baggage claim. Ever. Not 30 years ago, not 20 years ago, not 10, not 5, not even just this last May. Never.

In 2005 I was loading our luggage into the trunk of a rental car at SFO and realized that one of the bags my wife grabbed off the belt was not ours. Looked like ours. Last name on the tag was somewhat similar looking to ours. But the bag wasn’t ours. Had I not noticed we would have ridden off to wine country and the owner would have crabbily filed a lost bag claim with the airline and that probably would have been that.

ETA: And we wouldn’t have had our bag either!


La Guardia is the only airport where my luggage receipt was checked.

That’s been my experience for US airports too. La Guardia used to check, but doesn’t do it any more. Panama also used to check, but doesn’t do so now.

As has been said, stealing luggage at random off a carousel is high risk for an uncertain and probably low reward. It’s not worth it for most thieves.

I mentioned in the recognizing-luggage thread: SJU also used to and quit, the AA concourse was the last one to do so as of early 2012. Have not flown AA into SJU since, due to their cuts in routes, and there has been a change of management of the airport so I’m not sure if they stopped, too (nobody else has done so in my other flights). Then again at SJU baggage claim is still a ticketed-passengers-only zone.

Las Vegas-McCarran has (or had, it’s been about 10 years for me) staff who make sure that your boarding pass and luggage tag match before allowing you to leave the baggage claim area. I’m guessing that LAS might attract a disproportionally high number of baggage thieves as I know for a fact that some gamblers put some or all of their bankroll in their checked luggage.