South Africa's Johannesburg's airport has a reputation for stolen and rifled baggage and a quick Google search returns many travelers reporting similar stories. My question, is how bad is the situation now. I noticed that many of these reports are older--from around 2006--and that the airport authority started a campaign to resolve the problem. Has the situation improved in 2011?

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    I was in South Africa last year for the World Cup and went through the J'burg airport in/out of SA. Coming into South Africa, they stole my friend's Canon SLR camera + lens. Of course we didn't realize it until a day later in the trip. Absolutely do not pack anything in your luggage that you would be upset if stolen, and certainly don't pack any electronics/jewelry/cash of any value.
    – user135
    Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 20:58
  • When I flew from London to Cape town via Johannesburg in August they made me take my bag out and recheck it. Which on top of being annoying seems like it must go past more sets of hands and increases the likely hood of things going missing. In saying that my bag wasn't tampered with but my camera, lens and cash were all in carry on so there was nothing of value in there.
    – Stuart
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 16:02
  • Interesting. We've heard from several people that it's safer to recheck your bags in Johannesburg instead of letting them be transferred through. I agree with you though that, rechecking does seem like an opportunity for me people to have access to your bag. Maybe they're counting on the fact that owners of transferred bags won't find out there's a problem until after they've left Johannesburg...
    – user27478
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 7:57
  • That makes sense about not noticing until your finial destination, i was basing my argument on the fact that more sets of hand touch it this way. Either way it apparently happens a lot.
    – Stuart
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 9:55
  • Just had 2 Canon SureShots stolen from my luggage in J'burg this week. Checked them in with Kenya Airways on KQ763 - bags were locked - when I arrived in Nairobi, the locks were cut-off and the cameras missing!!
    – user7054
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 19:08

2 Answers 2


I can't find the reference now, but there was a great story that an organisation was testing security at airports around the world, by taking a suitcase to the airport and leaving it there, timing how long before it got stolen or identified.

The exception was Johannesburg, where the car was hijacked enroute, and the suitcase never made it to the airport ;)


Apparently in the last year, luggage theft has been reduced by 60% which bodes well. Baggage pilfering is down to 0.6% of all bags that pass through the airport, which when you think about it is still bad, but if you lock your bags and use the bag wrapping machines available, it'll deter the opportunistic thief.

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    +1, if you take simple precautions and avoid putting anything valuable that will show up on a scanner then they won't bother. Don't be an easy target! Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 15:35
  • The same forum, 2 comments below that one, a passenger mentions that this is still a problem, and almost always transit luggage is tampered with, while the statistics take into consideration all luggage.
    – Tschareck
    Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 18:47
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    I would say the figure is 0.6% not because things have improved, but because (a) more people know how bad that airport is and don't put anything valuable in, and (b) many people probably simply do not report the theft of smaller items. The 0.6% figure masks a much higher probability that your bag will at least be opened and looked through. Commented Aug 21, 2012 at 19:15
  • There's always going to be unreported crime, but we have to measure it somehow :/
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Aug 21, 2012 at 20:02
  • 0.6% sounds OK. I have no solid reference but some anecdotal evidence (casual conversations with people in the biz) that 1% luggage lost (that's including all forms of loss or delay, not only theft and not necessarily lost forever) is “normal” so at least the same order of magnitude.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Sep 23, 2013 at 20:56

Last night we had a story on Carte Blanche (a South African investigative reporting program) where they said that there are about 140 000 incidents of theft at OR Tambo per year, so the situation is still really bad despite lots of measures put in place. They showed CCTV camera footage of how the thieves know exactly where the cameras are and grab bags off the conveyor belts in such a way that nothing can be seen in the cameras. The bottom line is just that you should never ever put anything valuable in your luggage if flying anywhere in SA - just keep valuables in your hand luggage. Period.

See the following link about the mentioned show with interviews with the head of security and with the Police.

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    There is absolutely no way we (or anyone else, save a handful of specialists) could make sense of an absolute number like 140000 (out of how many movements? how does it compare to other airports in the region and in the world?) so this story sounds more like lazy sensationalism than anything else.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Sep 23, 2013 at 21:01

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