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Changes for Checked Luggage

Changes for Checked Luggage
 

Originally published on Kron4’s website


 Posted: December 27, 2002 at 5:47 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON)  --  By December 31st, all airports across the country will be using new procedures to check for weapons in your luggage.

The TSA -- or Transportation Security Administration -- is advising consumers to leave bags unlocked so they don't have to be forced open if they trigger an alarm.

Passenger reaction so far has been mixed, with some consumers uncomfortable leaving their luggage unlocked.

Contact 4 wanted to know who'll be responsible for damaged luggage -- in the event that your bag is pryed open. And will you be reimbursed if something is stolen from your unlocked suitcase?

The sad truth is, probably not.

Travel rights attorney Al Anolik says most people assume they're covered and protected when they check their luggage in at the counter.

But, says Anolik, the airlines protect themselves by filing "tariffs" -- documents that act as public notices, which the airlines use to notifying consumers about their policies.

For example, most will cover up to $2500 dollars worth of lost luggage. But, if you look at United Airlines' tariffs, for example, you'll see a long list of exclusions -- things they won't cover.

"The airlines don't have to pay you for anything like electronics, video, photographic equipment, computer equipment, heirlooms, antiques, artwork, silverware, precious metals, negotiable papers, securities, commercial effects," says Anolik, reading off the tariff.

Basically, not much of anything is covered, except clothes.

"That's what's wrong," he says. "These tariffs should not be allowed to be so anti-consumer."

So what can we do until those tariffs become more consumer friendly? You might consider using the plastic cable ties recommended by the government, but even that may not offer a lot of security.

We found that if it's not pulled tight enough, a thief with a pair of scissors can easily snip the tie in half. Even a simple nail clipper might also cut through it. Pulling the tie tightly did appear to make it more difficult to cut, which makes it tougher for a thief, but also for the owner of the bag!

If you're really worried about something getting stolen, keep it with you.

"Take as much as possible on the airplane," advises Anolik, who travels at least once or twice a week. "Anything that's not covered in their tariff, I take with me. Am I a bin hog as one of the airlines calls me? I apologize, but I'm also a consumer activist."

Also, be careful about what you pack and how you pack it.

Avoid putting food and drinks in your suitcase. Things like chocolate or cheese may confuse the bomb detectors. Same goes for books, so spread them out flat instead of stacking them.

Also, pack any footwear, especially boots, on the top of everything else, and keep personal items such as toothbrushes -- in plastic bags.

Finally, keep in mind, that you can help things run smoother too.

"Make yourself get there earlier," says Anolik. "You know that that is one of your obligations to do this."

Also, resist the urge to over-pack. If your bag does get opened for inspection, it'll be harder to re-pack if it was stuffed.

And don't forget: the new machines will most likely damage film, so any film -- developed or undeveloped -- in your carry-on and have it hand-inspected at the security checkpoint if needed.

(Copyright 2002 KRON 4 News. All Rights Reserved.)
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