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Jetting off soon? 10 safety tips to protect your luggage from airport thieves

5 December 2019 10:48 AM
Baggage theft is on the rise, especially at OR Tambo International Airport. Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler offers key advice.

'Tis the season for baggage theft and tampering at airports.

As people prepare to go on holiday and visit their loved ones, travellers have been warned to take extra precaution with their luggage.

RELATED: Jetting off soon? What to know about claiming for luggage damaged during flights

Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler says the holiday season is when baggage tampering spikes at local airports.

South Africa’s largest airport, OR Tambo International in Johannesburg, is the biggest hotspot for luggage pilfering in the country.

Betty Maloka, the airport’s senior manager of corporate affairs, says there's been a spike in reported pilfering incidents at OR Tambo since August.

It's the biggest airport and that's where most incidents happen. The biggest volume is going through there. But it does happen at other airports.

Wendy Knowler, consumer journalist

At OR Tambo, expensive perfume remains the most coveted item by thieves who go sniffing through your bags.

RELATED: High-end perfumes the first items to be sniffed out by airline baggage thieves

Knowler says, at most, travellers can expect to be compensated according to an international airline rate which is about $20 (+- R280) per kilogram based on the weight of your possessions.

This is only for checked-in items that are not considered to be "valuable' (electronics, jewellery or cash).

Here are some top tips as you embark on your travels this season:

  • always check your back before you leave the airport so that you can report your case
  • always report your pilfering case to the airline authorities, even if nothing was stolen
  • never pack your high-end designer perfume in check-in luggage - it's the most sought-after item
  • note that you are allowed to take perfume packs of up to 100ml in your hand luggage
  • do not pack your electronics, jewellery and cash into check-in luggage - you will not be compensated if these items are stolen
  • always take photographs showing the contents of your bag so you have a record and evidence of what you packed
  • consider wrapping your luggage wrap in cling film, although this is not always foolproof
  • invest in a suitcase cover and a lock to create extra layers of safety
  • be aware that the zip ties can be easily broken
  • don't check in your Christmas presents

Several people also shared their shocking luggage tampering stories with Wendy Knowler and CapeTalk.

I flew from Joburg to Harare in December last year, and my brand new watch - which I had just got for Christmas, still in its box - was stolen out my suitcase. I hadn't even worn it. British Airways said the bag wasn't insured so they wouldn't take any responsibility.

Caller via Whatsapp

I flew out of Lanseria one evening earlier this year. I had my spare Samsung cellphone in my checked-in luggage. When I got to Cape Town it was no longer in my luggage. Nobody seemed interested when following up with the airline and Acsa.

Stephan, CapeTalk listener

My Samsonite [suitcase] was broken into from Maputo to Johannesburg a year ago and a fair amount of clothing and shoes was stolen. I only realised that my bag was tampered with when I checked in to the flight to fly from Joburg to Cape Town... The SAA lady said to me, 'sorry, there's nothing to claim'

Rob, CapeTalk listener

Listen to the full discussion on ConsumerTalk with Wendy Knowler:

Every Wednesday, on The Pippa Hudson Show, Wendy Knowler provides useful insights and tips on how to make the most of your buying power.

For more stories visit the ConsumerTalk feature page.

Got a consumer case you need help resolving?

Email:, put Cape Talk in the subject line, followed by the issue e.g. cellphone contract dispute.

Image: Pixabay

5 December 2019 10:48 AM

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