Just When You Thought Flying Couldn't Get Worse, Airports Are Stealing Your Luggage


Whether it's hidden fees or rapidly declining leg room, flying can be pretty ugly these days. Now, a CNN investigation has found that not even your checked luggage is safe.

Investigators at Miami International Airport used hidden cameras in the bellies of planes and other secure areas to find that many airport workers helped themselves to whatever passenger goodies they could find. The report also found that, since 2012, 31 of the airports's baggage handlers and ramp workers had been arrested. Six were taken into custody in 2015.

Miami isn't even the worst offender. It came fourth, behind New York's John F. Kennedy International, Los Angeles International and Orlando International airports. Between 2010 and 2014, the Transportation Security Administration recorded 30,621 claims of theft, the majority from checked luggage, according to CNN.

"It's a problem we all face," Miami police Lt. Pete Estis said, according to the report. "We will continue to be proactive until we can see that the claims of pilfering through luggage will actually decrease." 


Flying sucks. Airplanes are cramped metal tubes filled with crying children, bad food and wars over reclining. Of course, the big exception to all this is first class, which airlines are bending over backward to furnish in opulence. 

CNN's findings are a step beyond all this, though. No matter how uncomfortable they make people, airlines have a basic responsibility to their passengers' safety and property. The TSA was created after 9/11 with the express purpose of increasing airline safety, and yet much of the theft comes from TSA employees themselves. Since 2002, CNN reports, 513 agency officers have been fired for theft.

Washington Post/Getty Images

What can be done? The most obvious solution would seem to be locking luggage with TSA-approved locks that can be opened with a master key. If an approved lock is not used, the agency reserves the right to break them as part of the standard screening process.

The problem with locks, or passenger-based solutions, is that they require good faith of the TSA, whose agents are clearly part of the problem. The only real way to make checked luggage safer is for airlines and the TSA do a better job at self-policing employees like baggage handlers, who are not under the same TSA umbrella as security agents. This could take the form of better hiring practices or cameras in secure areas. But something has to change. 

Baggage theft is about more than just a stolen iPad. Safety breaches of any kind, so deep within airlines, should be treated as serious, unsettling invasions. If someone is illegally opening a passenger's bag to take something out, what is to stop the same person from putting something in?

h/t CNN