Two weeks ago in our return trip from Davao via Cebu Pacific, my wife checked-in her backpack, along with the boxes of durian and mangosteen we purchased as pasalubong. Around half-an hour later she was called back to the check-in counter. Apparently her backpack ended up in the cart of Philippine Airlines, without the claim tag/sticker that’s supposed to indicate it should be on the Cebu Pacific flight. Good thing a dutiful PAL employee (thanks to you whoever you are) managed to find her address book in the bag, found her name, and returned the backpack to Cebu Pacific after verifying that her name wasn’t in the PAL manifest. Her backpack and its contents were intact.
That wasn’t the end of story though: when we got back to Manila, the box of mangosteen we had was in shambles. Apparently it rained hard while the luggage was being loaded onto the plane, and parts of the carton box disintegrated. Several pieces of the 150-pesos-a-kilo mangosteen fruit fell out of the box, hopefully to be retrieved by airline cleanup crew so the darn things don’t go to waste.
This morning, something worse happened to one of my wife’s clients, part of a party of 27 people going to Bohol today. His cellphone went missing, from inside his luggage which was checked in for the 4:50 AM Cebu Pacific flight from Manila to Cebu. Fortunately his wallet and digicam, which were also in the bag, were not taken, but it’s absolutely alarming that you could lose valuables while your baggage is being handled by airport personnel. We’ll file a report with Cebu Pacific and NAIA 3, and perhaps with the Mactan International Airport when they come back from their Bohol trip on Wednesday.
What many people don’t realize is that the handling of checked in luggage is absolutely horrid and utterly unsafe to check luggage in, in any airport or with any airline in the world. Baggage handling is rough, with machines constantly and violently shoving, pushing, and tumbling your luggage around as it makes its way from the check-in counter to the plane, when baggage handlers will likewise pass them around like basketballs in a hurried bid to get the plane flying on time.
While you can opt to lock your luggage, it’s no guarantee that contents will not be lost, and there’s absolutely no guarantee that your luggage will arrive intact. Here are some guidelines to prevent luggage from getting lost and mishandled on your flights:
- Get some good pieces of luggage – Hard-cased and heavy duty luggages are expensive and all, but they’re quite sturdy and dependable hence their popularity. For hard-cased luggage, there’s also the guarantee that the bag won’t be squeezed in when tons upon tons of other luggage are put on top of it. Try buying luggage that can be contracted/expanded, depending on load, however, or ones with straps to hold down your things, as they are quite necessary as I’d point out in the next item.
- Use an appropriate-sized bag for your luggage – Use a bag that is just right for the job. A bag that’s too loosely packed will tend to be crushed and/or its contents will toss and tumble inside; a bag that’s too tightly packed might be torn apart at the zippers when additional weight is applied. Make sure you pack your bag just right. You could opt to look for luggage with straps that could hold down your stuff, however, so your things won’t fly around the luggage when they’re too loose.
- Do NOT check in your valuables and electronics – While several types of electronics (especially cellphones) are prohibited for in-flight use, it’s not worth risking having them thrown around in bags or luggage. This is especially true for laptops, where dropping and mishandling usually spells the bitter end for hard drives. Hand-carry your electronics, especially your laptops and cellular phones, as much as possible.
- Lock your luggage with padlocks – Buy a good, small padlock to keep your luggage from being opened up. One can never be sure that there is no airport personnel who won’t be tempted to swipe a nice cellphone or iPod if your bag’s zipper fails and unravels its contents. Unfortunately if you are traveling to and within the United States this might be a bad idea, since the Department of Homeland Security sees it fit to destroy each and every padlock in sight in a pathetic attempt to “prevent terrorism”. Of course, to make this step unnecessary, refer to the previous rule.
- Put identification on your luggage – Use hard-to-remove bag tags or labels to properly identify the owner of the luggage. I never realized how important this is until the incident in Davao: the backpack had no bag tag, and the airport employees had to rummage through my wife’s things to figure out who she was. Make their lives easier by indicating your name clearly on your bags.
Of course the best and safest way for circumventing the need for these is to pack light and have everything on your hand carry luggage. I still have to replicate Art’s amazing luggage crunching feat, which is especially difficult for a man with my large and bulky frame, but if there’s a will, there must be a way!