This question worried me and so inspired this question. Provided that an airline traveller must rely on checked baggage, what can one dissuade or forestall such theft?

Friends have confirmed that for example, at London Heathrow Airport, customs precede the luggage claim carousel area, after which no especial law or security enforcement appears to check what one removed from the luggage carousel. So any traveller can access any luggage carousel and steal whatever on the carousel, without premeditation. For example, one may feel like pilfering a random suitcase?

Footnote: I wrote 'defer' in the question title; I assume that foregoing checked baggage is too inconvenient.

  • 8
    Your friends are a bit confused. On any international flight involving customs, the Customs check will always be after baggage claim. Only domestic baggage claims are accessible without security. Mar 6, 2015 at 3:42
  • 1
    Indeed, even at London airports, there's immigration (passport check) first, then luggage, then customs.
    – Mark Mayo
    Mar 6, 2015 at 4:28
  • 3
    @jpatokal I've never seen an airport outside the USA where baggage reclaim was accessible to the non-travelling public. Mar 6, 2015 at 10:24
  • 1
    @DavidRicherby Come visit Australia or New Zealand some time =) Mar 6, 2015 at 10:55
  • 3
    @JamesRyan: there are lots of circumstances where bags can come out before passengers — most notably, international arrivals, if there’s a long queue at immigration/passport control.
    – PLL
    Mar 7, 2015 at 0:37

1 Answer 1


Number one easiest way: A padlock.

It comes down to psychology: you're looking for a bag to steal - are you going to choose a locked one or an easily-opened one?

Secondly, having a unique, distinct bag is likely a deterrent too. A thief is less likely to pick up the gaudy unicorn-emblazoned pink and purple backpack than the standard black bag that has 9 duplicates of it on the carousel. Here's a source on that one

Try not to make a bathroom stop until you've got your bag. The longer it's travelling around the carousel on its own, the longer it's unattended and inviting attention.

Another simple idea is to buy cheap, simple luggage (expensive luggage implies the contents may be valuable too).

  • 4
    My husband once chased down a lady to retrieve a big, purple, airbrushed cat suitcase. She had mistakenly grabbed an identical suitcase that belonged to a young girl on the same flight and obviously did not feel the need to check tags.
    – Kim
    Mar 6, 2015 at 4:50
  • 4
    Here's a case of a thief stealing expensive luggage in order to resell the luggage itself, not the contents: bangkokpost.com/news/general/460194/…
    – neubau
    Mar 6, 2015 at 5:26
  • 7
    A padlock also implies the content may be valuable. Mar 6, 2015 at 11:34
  • 2
    Padlocks are problematic in the US. Security must be able to open and search the bags. If they see a pad lock, they will either tear it off or toss the bag off the plane. There are "TSA accepted locks" but they are fairly easy to break. See tsa.gov/traveler-information/baggage-locks and traveltips.usatoday.com/tsa-luggage-lock-regulations-62312.html
    – Hilmar
    Mar 6, 2015 at 12:50
  • 4
    not to mention padlocks on suitcases are incredibly easy to bypass if you don't care about damaging the case, and still pretty easy if you do. If I was the kind of person who would steal a bag (I'm not), I'd prefer to pick one which did have a lock as this implies contents worth protecting. I'd then walk calmly but quickly out of the bagage hall, get away from the airport and either snip the lock off with a suitable cutting device, or bypass it altogether and just break the case. A lot of effort, expense and risk of capture to get a weeks worth of dirty undies though if you ask me. Nov 19, 2015 at 11:40

You must log in to answer this question.