The 68 pieces of baggage that turned up in a trash bin Tuesday near George Bush Intercontinental Airport were probably stolen by a team of thieves in a single day’s work while airline staffers were stretched thin by the demands of holiday travel, a Texas travel adviser theorized Wednesday.
“It sounds like a hit-or-miss holiday grab bag,” said Tom Parsons, of Arlington, who operates Bestfares.com. “They probably grabbed enough to fill up a little van, then went off somewhere and rifled through it.”
Parsons said it is costly for the airlines to pay tag-checkers. It is a job that neither the Houston Airport System, which oversees operations at Bush and Hobby, nor the federal Transportation Security Administration performs.
Continental Airlines spokeswoman Mary Clark said many travelers would object to the delay that checking would cause. The airline does not check tags against bags, she said.
Not checking is standard practice at most U.S. airports, Parsons said, but checks are more frequent elsewhere. He said his bags were checked recently when he picked them up in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Although 68 bags may seem “an amazing number” to steal from carousels, it’s not that hard to do for a gang, he said.
“We had something like that in Dallas. A group of guys would go from one terminal to another and pick up a couple of bags each place and throw them into their car,” he said. The group would later hold garage sales to sell their loot, including the luggage, he said.
At Bush, Parsons speculated, “Those guys were working at different terminals, they took their time and then moved on.
“When you look at the number of terminals and the number of places where you can pick up your bags, it doesn’t take that many stops before you’ve got 70.”
“Some bags will sit there on the carousel and go around for three or four laps, and that’s a good sign of a missed connection. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that maybe nobody is going to claim this bag,” he said.
Airlines have personnel to remove those bags to prevent theft, but sometimes they’re busy elsewhere, Parsons said.
One year a member of my family shipped some luggage via UPS, before visiting us for Christmas. Maybe UPS and FedEx need to offer a new service, since airlines don’t seem to be interested in safeguarding passengers’ bags.
In the Chron story, Continental suggests that luggage theft “is rare,” but this KHOU-11 story suggests it might be more of a problem than airlines want to admit:
Police sources told 11 News that more often than not the bags are not mishandled or lost, but stolen, sometimes by people on the other side of the security check points. The source tells us that police become frustrated because the incidents are not reported by the airlines.
It makes for bad publicity the source said.