I arrived back safely in The Netherlands from Malaysia the other day – not totally without incident. Standing by the luggage carousel there are possibly only three ‘bad’ things that can happen: your luggage never shows up, your luggage does show up, but the case or zipper has broken and all your goods and unmentionables arrive scattered about the down ramp on display for all to see, or your luggage arrives and you find it has been broken into by persons unknown and your goods have been pawed through by faceless strangers who have thoughtfully closed up the luggage again, but with everything inside in a jumble. I’d mention that although you may have a priority sticker or tag on the luggage, if flying with most airlines and KLM in particular, you can be assured that your bag will be treated in the most democratic fashion and the Priority tag the counter agent so carefully attaches actually doesn’t mean a thing – just be thankful if it arrives at all ! Some years ago when I often flew with Air Canada, they actually had a separate luggage belt for priority tagged luggage in some of the Canadian airports – I’d be surprised if they still did this given all the cost cutting and dropping of service level they have been doing to try and save money but am prepared to be pleasantly surprised.
Getting back the arrival yesterday, what had happened was the third bad thing – my luggage had been broken into, the case damaged and the zipper broken by people or persons unknown. When they do this to you in the USA, the staff working for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at least generally has the courtesy to put in a little note saying what they did and why, and also who to complain to if your valuables are missing. They have a web site at http://www.tsa.gov/public/ that has all sorts of information. Till very recently, you were advised to not lock your bags at all when travelling to the USA as they would cut the locks off, but recently luggage manufacturers have managed to get agreement on special locks, that TSA baggage screeners have a key for which allows you once again to have at least a small sense of security when travelling – at least to and from the USA.
As I do travel to the USA, I had dutifully bought a few of these locks and think they are a great idea – I’ve uploaded a photo which should be around here somewhere. They are clearly marked with a red diamond on the side, and on the bottom is the TSA key code required to open them. The thing I hadn’t thought of was that outside the USA, these clever locks and the simplicity they offer for legal luggage searchers hadn’t quite made it onto the radar of non-USA security staff. I really have no idea if my luggage was ‘legitimately’ broken into in KLIA before being loaded onto the plane, or quickly checked over for possible valuables by a luggage handler here in The Netherlands as no note was left inside. While the most valuable thing in the luggage was my laundry and that was still all there, it was more than a bit annoying.
The KLM baggage claims person was very understanding and dutifully took down all the information, which he then printed out for me to do something with myself – once again, I’m struck by how little value there is in being a frequent flyer as really it’s becoming a self service