26 Feb2012

I could have titled this “How unscrupulous people or scam artists could easily make PHP100,000+ by various baggage scams exploiting dopey security loopholes” instead. Remember this fact. If the airline loses your luggage and it is not returned to you after 5 days, you will have to file a claim or loss, and after some time and lots of frustration, you will be reimbursed just PHP40 per kilo weight of your checked in baggage. Yes, PHP40 per kilo. So if you used your maximum allowance of 15 kilos on a budget ticket on PAL, you could conceivably receive (as much as) PHP600 in total compensation. That’s according to Article 18, Section 2 of the Conditions of Carriage of Philippine Airlines, Inc. as published on their website. Yikes. Forget the complete lack of logic that there is no chance in $#@% that the realistic market value of the contents of your luggage is worth anywhere near close to PHP40 a kilo (even mangoes these days cost PHP80 a kilo!), or that PAL’s excess baggage charges are in the neighborhood of PHP150 a kilo, or that your suitcase alone would cost more than that… :(

After my last “episode” with missing baggage, I sat down and listed out exactly what my suitcase contained after a short two day trip to Cebu. I list them out to show you they are not unreasonable items, and with estimated costs, the contents of the suitcase far exceeded what PAL would pay if they lost my bag, or if someone intentionally stole it. An old suitcase purchased at SM, now worth say PHP1,000. A fairly new pair of sebago suede loafers purchased on my last trip to the U.S., on sale, PHP2,500. A belt, PHP850. A pair of Levi’s khakis, on super sale, PHP1,600. A linen shirt, PHP1,500. 2 t-shirts to sleep in, PHP50. A polo shirt, outlet, PHP1,000. A zubuchon uniform shirt PHP400. A cotton shirt, PHP1,000. 2 old J. Crew boxer shorts, purchased at a factory outlet in Jakarta, eons ago, PHP20 :) 3 pairs of very good underwear (like bedsheets, I believe in spending on what is closest to your skin for long periods of time), PHP1,000. 2 books PHP2,400. Miscellaneous, PHP800. Total value: PHP14,120. I keep my toiletries in the office in Cebu, or that would have added a significant sum, considering how much one has to pay for razor blades these days. The suitcase weighed 7 kilos total, so if lost, I would have received PHP280 on PHP14,120, or a recovery of just 2%! That’s absurd. At any rate, the first point is, don’t PUT ANYTHING OF SIGNIFICANT VALUE IN YOUR CHECKED IN DOMESTIC BAGGAGE. And whether you paid PHP1,500 for your budget on-line ticket purchase of PHP6,500 for that business class seat, you would get the same reimbursement.

How can you bring added compensation in case of loss? (1) Insure your bags either with general flight insurance, or at the counter, specifically declare that the value of contents is say PHP20,000, and I believe they may ask you to pay a premium to cover the higher value in case of loss. (2) Check your own credit cards which you used to charge your tickets and see if they have any additional coverage. From now on, whenever practical, I will charge ALL OF MY DOMESTIC TRAVEL on my U.S. American express card, that will cover baggage loss for up to several thousand DOLLARS worth in the event of loss.

How can you reduce the probability of someone taking your luggage? Because most luggage is black, then it may help to distinguish your luggage to prevent someone else from intentionally or unintentionally taking it at the baggage claim. In my case, since my suitcase was old and me annoyed, I decided to buy a cheap PHP100 can of spray paint rather than buying a new suitcase, and I marked my suitcase with spray paint! If someone still pulls this off the belt, then they are not only careless/stupid, in my book, but certifiable. :) Unfortunately, the spray paint I got isn’t great on synthetic fabric, so the designs aren’t so vibrantly white, but it’s bizarre enough to avoid baggage confusion. Alternatively, you can use unusual luggage belts in bizarre colors, odd tags, etc. And NEVER ever write your address on your suitcase tag. Put contact numbers and perhaps your frequent flier number or email address, but NOT your home address as any Tom, Dick and Harry can get your full personal details just by reading your tags. Also, When you get to your destination, always try to get to the baggage carousel quickly, so no one has a chance to take your bag…

But here’s the evil part. I figured I would make a far better crook than most crooks. I started to wonder just how porous and easy security and handling of airline baggage was for domestic passengers, so I have come up with two POSSIBLE ways that folks could easily scam the local airlines and passengers. I am NOT IN ANY WAY SUGGESTING ANYONE DO THESE, AS THEY ARE CLEARLY ILLEGAL AND CRIMINAL, I just want to point out how many loopholes there seem to be… and WARN THE PUBLIC ABOUT THE POTENTIAL DANGERS with respect to the safety of their luggage.

POSSIBLE SCAM #1 : Insure and claim loss. A hypothetical passenger checks in on a flight from Manila to Cebu, and declares his pseudo Louis Vuitton luggage and contents are actually worth PHP80,000 and the check in person asks the passenger to pay a premium for insuring the bag. He gets a luggage claim tag and boards the plane on a PHP1,500 one way ticket. When he gets to Cebu, an accomplice who is also on the same flight, rushes to the baggage carousel and “steals” the bag and rushes out of the baggage area, with no checks done at all. The first passenger claims his luggage is lost, airline personnel can’t find it, and after several weeks, their insurance company has to pay out PHP80,000. Cost to crook, PHP3,000 in tickets + insurance, say PHP500, so net gain, PHP76,500. Of course you can’t do this repeatedly, but you get the picture…

POSSIBLE SCAM #2 : A single passenger checks in with no check in baggage. But he brings along two old check in baggage stickers. He then hangs out near the check in counters and watches other passengers and their luggage for likely “targets”. At the destination, passenger rushes to the baggage carousel, grabs 3-4 random or targeted black bags that are easily interchanged and have no spray paint, then calmly but quickly rushes out, hopefully before anyone else has noticed. If he is approached by another passenger, he can quickly give the person their bags and claim surprise that their bags look so alike… Essentially, this is theft. And if my suitcase is any indication, the contents of say 4 suitcases could EASILY be worth some PHP100,000. Identify tourists or balikbayans and the value of luggage will rise dramatically. Think I am crazy? See this post here where someone was caught with hundreds of stolen bags in their home!

Variation. In this country, many folks can get into the arrival area. In my most recent trip, drivers, body guards, flunkies all managed to get in. And could have easily managed to steal some bags. This is even more true in some foreign airports where almost anyone can enter the baggage claim areas…

So my point is this. The local airlines don’t really seem to care about the safety of your bags, nor will they compensate you reasonably if your luggage is lost. There is little to stop unscrupulous folks, whether passengers or not, from stealing your bags. So BE WARY and think about this the next time you travel on a domestic flight.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. florisa says:

    hayy.. buti nalang pink/purple ang mga baggages ko

    Feb 26, 2012 | 10:52 am

     
  2. Footloose says:

    Although I maintain that American Express should not be charging anything at all for travelers’ cheques because they make tons of money annually from unredeemed coupons, the travel insurance deals that you get with the use of their credit cards are quite dependable, specially in countries where natives are strangers to customer service and normal concepts of personal property.

    Picture #1 is a good piebald, distinctive and easy to spot.
    Picture #3 is over done. Too much spray paint camouflaged the suitcase. Camouflage makes things harder to spot. Point is well taken though.

    Feb 26, 2012 | 11:22 am

     
  3. Marketman says:

    footloose, you are right, of course, the back of the suitcase was the part I experimented with… and when the paint didn’t seem to take at first, it got blasted with frustration… :)

    Feb 26, 2012 | 12:25 pm

     
  4. Cheryl says:

    oh no! i will be traveling to davao in may!
    good thing my luggage is blue-green. hehehe

    Feb 26, 2012 | 1:57 pm

     
  5. michelle o says:

    I’ve had my check in luggage tampered with twice and come in an entire two days late. And I was not on economy either. The first time, the suitcase came off the belt tied up in chord. My belongings were haphazardly mixed with somebody else’s. Of course, items were stolen.
    The second time, I didn’t even notice the suitcase was opened (padlock broken but made to look like it was still in one piece and the zipper seams very neatly slit. Thankfully it was my toddler’s dirty clothes. Nothing taken but an expensive bag destroyed. The airline though replaced the bag with a new one.
    The late luggage arrival was a joke. Airline and ground staff were totally clueless. I don’t know how many idiots it takes to locate one sitcase. But needless to say, the five I spoke to had no idea what was going on or what to do. But one had a brainchild: If it’s a padlocked suitcase – leave the key so when I go back I can call out what is in the suitcase while they open it. My reply: “REALLY? Are youREALLY saying this?”

    Feb 26, 2012 | 2:21 pm

     
  6. joanie says:

    this is one of the reason i bought a vera bradley luggage–easy to spot.

    Feb 26, 2012 | 3:44 pm

     
  7. PITS, MANILA says:

    sigh. i might have to resurrect my elastic green nets to wrap my packages.

    Feb 26, 2012 | 6:52 pm

     
  8. MP says:

    OMG, P600 to compensate for lost luggage? and no security mechanisms in place to lessen opportunities for such? I wonder if this payment scheme is unique to PAL (and only for their domestic flights)…

    I’m glad my credit card company provides insurance coverage in the event of loss of life (heaven forbid) and luggage (for flights paid using their card of course)…

    Feb 26, 2012 | 6:56 pm

     
  9. Edwin says:

    Happened to my sister in law on a SFO – JFK via Virgin Atlantic. Lost 4 bots of nice napa wines, a GPS and some toiletries. Was compensated provided that you show your receipt of items lost but not the wine.

    I guess, PAL is less generous.

    Feb 26, 2012 | 7:01 pm

     
  10. Grace says:

    You could also try stickers if spray paint is too messy. And luckily, my luggage is bright purple.

    Feb 26, 2012 | 7:51 pm

     
  11. Grace Encarnacion says:

    Oh so it’s a good thing pala that I’m not into black luggage. My luggage bags are either printed or colored.

    Feb 26, 2012 | 7:57 pm

     
  12. britelite says:

    my rimowa costs a lot! its scary ha!

    Feb 26, 2012 | 10:28 pm

     
  13. Faust says:

    That’s a creative way of distinguishing your bag with a spray paint MM. hehehe.. ^_^

    Feb 26, 2012 | 10:54 pm

     
  14. Gezel says:

    With all these scams you mentioned Marketman, you forget about CCTV don’t they have it in the Phils., as here in UK CCTV rules, so it’s kind of difficult to carry the scams you mentioned.

    Feb 26, 2012 | 10:59 pm

     
  15. rita says:

    wow. just, wow! things that people will do for a black market. luckily, since hubby and i moved from the states to germany – as long as we’re traveling within europe, we are driving. we ever so rarely go home to the states for a visit.

    thanks so much for this post. this is really an eye-opener. the airlines/airports really need to be strict not only to the boarding passengers but for the passengers on their way out. meaning, strict luggage tag check. as for the luggage(s) that arrived at the airport before the passenger(s), for some reason or the other, the airport should provide a designated room with a tag checker for the passengers to claim their belongings. then again as i always say, “that just makes too much common sense for any company/organization to do.” sigh.

    Feb 27, 2012 | 12:12 am

     
  16. Giancarlo says:

    Where does one get an American Express Card? Are the local BDO backed cards just as good? Do they offer the same protections?

    Feb 27, 2012 | 12:18 am

     
  17. michelle h. says:

    If I ever see a spray-painted bag on a carousel, I will know either Marketman or a Marketmanila follower is somewhere in the vicinity…

    Feb 27, 2012 | 2:45 am

     
  18. Marketman says:

    michelle h, yup, that’s right. Kind of a secret society sign of sorts. :) Giancarlo, BDO issues domestic AMEX cards, but I am not certain if they have same baggage protections clauses. And because carrying local cards is like carrying cash or worse, I wouldn’t encourage that route either… Gezel, I did think about CCTV. From that distance, you cannot tell who took a very plain looking black bag(s), and if the passenger acts normally, he can easily slip out… If CCTV were in place, I could have spotted my missing bag on tape quickly only because I suspected the one or two non-passengers who could have pulled it off the belt to begin with… But the airline personnel didn’t even offer to review the tapes… honestly, they didn’t seem to CARE at all…

    Feb 27, 2012 | 5:45 am

     
  19. millet says:

    cool!

    Feb 27, 2012 | 7:19 am

     
  20. Crisma says:

    Suggestion: for spraypainting your luggage- Maybe you can have a stencil of some pattern done (like how they do it on t-shirts) so that your pattern will come out sharper. ;)

    Feb 27, 2012 | 10:04 am

     
  21. Butch says:

    I’ll be on the look-out for your bag, MM… to snap a picture of it, AND of you! :)

    Feb 27, 2012 | 11:17 am

     
  22. RobKSA says:

    expect the proliferation of dalmatian looking bags soon at the airports, hahahaha

    Feb 27, 2012 | 7:50 pm

     
  23. bubbles says:

    wow! this is so scary. im a bit lucky that i have been travelling to mla-dvo mla or mla-cebu-mla all my life and nothing happened to my luggage, ever.
    i hope when i go to bangkok this will not happen to me!! cross fingers. :)

    Feb 28, 2012 | 12:14 am

     
  24. Cyrus says:

    I flew most of the time with Qatar Airways, and there was always a claim tag so the others could not claim when it is not thiers.

    Feb 28, 2012 | 12:22 am

     
  25. sur says:

    That looks hip and ghetto! ;-) a dire remedy. Not recommended for your LV trunks.

    (a contrast: a couple of years ago two black luggages did not accomppany us on our CDG-VCE flight on Alitalia, upon landing at 10am in Venice, ground crew pinpointed that said luggages were still sitting in Paris. As a consolation, we were given 2 packages for such situations: toiletries, two shirts, among other essentials. AND two 90 euros each to shop (total 180 euros)- the caveat was to send Alitalia the recipts for reimbursement at trips conclusion — a minor inconvenience. All these were done even while knowing that for certain the bags would be delivered to the hotel that early evening)

    Feb 28, 2012 | 1:26 am

     
  26. ami says:

    MM, upon seeing the first picture, I thought you were going nuts! I agree with one of the comments, why not stencil in a nice design instead?
    P600 for the whole bag is absurd! 5 magnets from Europe costs more than that.

    Feb 28, 2012 | 9:21 am

     
  27. Anne says:

    i’m thinking of getting a rimowa but i’m already having 2nd thoughts about it. I bought a red luggage at the time when everyone had black so it was easy to spot. but now, red is becoming common so i need to change luggage. plus i don’t know how these people handle our luggage even if there is a fragile sticker on it, but every time i get my luggage back there seemed to be small damages like the zipper would be broken. small enough that it’s not worth the time to complain about but through time the list of damages gets long.

    Feb 28, 2012 | 11:40 am

     
  28. Bubut says:

    i dont think the color of the bag matters, for someone who is in a hurry or not aware of his/her luggage would get what the thinks is his. I had an experience where my luggage is an old bulaklakin na green, i saw it going around already and waiting for it to go to my side when suddenly someone picked it up thinking it was their luggage. its good that i was able to retrieve it from them and they say it was a mistake as their luggage has the same shade of bulaklakin na green…. thanks for the tip MM!

    Feb 28, 2012 | 1:54 pm

     
  29. MiMac says:

    Looking at the first photo– for a second there, I thought someone vandalized your suitcase. hehehe… My suitcase is also black and I have attached a blue luggage tag for easy identification.

    Unsolicited advice: don’t ever attach the premier/elite luggage tag (PAL usually gives 2 free luggage tags with your Mabuhay Miles number and name printed on it) to your checked-in bags. Ours got stolen! Sheesh!

    Feb 28, 2012 | 2:31 pm

     
  30. Kasseopeia says:

    In an attempt to spare myself from further luggage head-aches, I have taken to using cheap but sturdy suitcases in garish colors (think radioactive phlegm, rotten grape juice, and squished chesa). As an added insurance, I tie gaudy ribbons and lace to the handles of my suitcases. If that does not make my luggage stand out, I don’t know what will.

    Feb 28, 2012 | 2:54 pm

     
  31. kikas_head says:

    Yup, we do what Kasseopeia does. We have weird, odd colored suitcases (usually bought while in the US at a TJ Maxx type place). Also our suitcases are usually very cheap because not only are they very ugly, but we are more concerned about weight than sturdiness so they are not bags meant to last more than a few overseas trips. We use AMEX (US issued) when traveling abroad and BDO Platinum domestically (which has some travel insurance attached to it but no idea what). The only reason we do not use the AMEX everywhere is I cannot stomach the 4% surcharge for foreign transaction. That and to be completely honest while our belongings would for sure cost more than P600, we usually do not have a lot of costly items with us for domestic travel (think H&M, not D&G).

    Feb 28, 2012 | 3:28 pm

     
  32. HRH WQ says:

    Do Not buy expensive luggage!! Not even if these brands claim they are suuuper durable.
    I’ve heard of many cases of people buying Rimowa and who ended up with pretty damaged luggage!

    On the other hand, if you’re traveling on a private plane and you are sure of how they handle baggage then maybe it’s okay to use expensive luggage :-)

    Feb 29, 2012 | 8:39 pm

     
  33. Footloose says:

    Immediately above reminds me, luxury luggage advertised in glossy magazines make me wonder. They are never seen doing the rounds on the carousel for the simple reason that, apparently, airport handlers reserve their worst contempt and seething scorn for them and once they go through the wringer they look so much worse for wear. In certain airports, you see concerned occasional travelers avail themselves of the services of those extra-protection guys who wrap their luggage in a web of plastic film making them just look like leftovers.

    Mar 1, 2012 | 1:22 am

     
 

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