Rampant baggage theft in NAIA
We’ve all heard of horror stories involving extortion of travelers and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), incredibly by our own fellow Filipinos, in the form of immigration, customs and even security officials in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). But there is another threat the traveling public also needs to be aware of: baggage handlers.
There have been hundreds of complaints of opened luggage made by travelers who arrive at NAIA but only a handful have become known to the public. This is probably because people choose to let it go since the items are already lost, or because our airport refuses to acknowledge that they had anything to do with the missing items.
One cannot say with utmost certainty if it was the baggage handlers from NAIA or the ones at the departure airport who mishandle or lose your luggage or its contents, unless you can get the airline or airport to issue a written testimony. However, our airport is notorious for baggage theft more than any other airport, which leads one to believe that there could be no other culprit than those in NAIA.
When I received my luggage at my destination airport with some items missing on two separate occasions, I deduced beyond reasonable doubt that baggage handlers from NAIA committed the theft. First of all, flying out of Manila airport was the common factor.
In addition, since travelers should check-in at least 45 minutes before their flight, baggage handlers at one’s departing airport have the opportunity to act on their malicious intentions. They have sufficient time to take from luggage that should have been in their care, whatever it is they choose to keep for themselves. On the other hand, baggage handlers at one’s destination airport are in a hurry to unload cargo from the aircraft and into the baggage carousel where passengers are waiting, thus minimizing any chances of theft (which could explain why arriving passengers have to wait longer for their baggage in Manila than in other airports).
I hope that NAIA implements policies to keep travelers’ luggage safe or impose harsh punishments for those caught stealing. But at the same time, I know they won’t do a thing about it. It’s the same kind of hopelessness I feel towards the rest of the government. (READ: 6 rights you have as an airline passenger)
Tips for travelers
The only thing we can do is to keep our possessions secured before turning them over to airport personnel. We all know how to put a padlock on our luggage, but clearly that isn’t enough to deter thieves.
Here are a few other tips I suggest to avoid encountering problems in your trip that involve your baggage:
1. Simply don’t check in your baggage.
It would be safest not to entrust your personal possessions to someone else. It also forces you to pack light too, since *technically you’re only allowed 7 kg of hand carry luggage. Not only that, it eliminates waiting time after arriving at your destination. Why waste time waiting at the baggage carousel when you could be in a cab or train on the way to your hotel?
But if you must, make it as inconspicuous as possible. Remove accessories and memorabilia which baggage handlers may like for themselves or give as gifts.
*(Technically a 7-kg luggage is allowed for budget airline flights departing from Manila airport, in addition to necessities such as a separate handbag, coat, laptop, charger, etc since airline personnel in the airport actually weigh your luggage before you go through. But based on my experience, flights departing from overseas airports do not care if your small suitcase is heavier than 7 kg as long as you can carry it and it fits in the overhead cabin.)
2. Take a photo of your luggage.
This, together with your boarding pass upon leaving it at the check-in counter or baggage drop-off, preferably letting the staff see you’re doing so. This way you have proof when making claims from the airline if you don't receive your luggage in the same condition you left it.
3. Get travel insurance.
This is so you can make (additional) claims from the insurance company – specifically, one that covers lost or damaged luggage. But you would still need photos and a report from the airline admitting that there’s indeed damage or loss. Get one as soon as you land at your destination airport.
The bigger picture
In China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, shortcomings of public officials leading to public suffering and allegations of corruption are met with any of the following: immediate resignation, conviction with jail time or the death penalty, or suicide. This is because officials from those countries seriously abide by the concepts of honor and shame, and that is what prevents majority of them from committing unethical acts. How I wish our local officials and persons in charge could take a few pointers from their East Asian counterparts.
Having your possessions stolen by baggage handlers is outrageous. This is almost as outrageous as being refused entry into the airport by security simply for not having a copy of one's ticket (no other foreign airport seems to do this), or bothering to even have security if a gun-wielding assassin on a motorcycle murders someone in broad daylight. Though this is not as outrageous as a government taxing its citizens P1,620 ($37*) each time he exercises his basic right (or even necessity) to travel abroad while departing from one of the world's worst airports; but that’s a completely different story. – Rappler.com
$1 = P43.6
Kevin Tsai has successfully merged business and pleasure by establishing and managing his startup travel agency. He hopes to host his own travel show and be appointed consul someday. But for now, he is focusing to expand and diversify his business and continues to be an advocate of traveling among young adults. Connect with him through his Facebook page or follow his Instagram account.