Thursday, October 18, 2012

Are the Contents of our luggage ever Safe even with TSA locks?

It had been a mad mad rush and crazy morning, departing from Seattle to Los Angeles. We were lucky to even made it to the flight given all the factors that have gone wrong.

Firstly, we got our departure time wrong. Instead of 6:30am, we thought that we have to arrive at the airport at 6:30am. My wife only found around 3:00 am when she got up and having 5 big bags to pack, results of our shopping spree for winter clothing in preparation for the cold winter in Beijing when we get there, the word "stress" is not even close to describe the panic I am sure she was feeling then.

When we finally get all the bags packed and Ryan to wake up at 5:00am, we found out that we could not get all the bags into one taxi and had to call two separate cabs. We were fortunate that there were two cabs waiting at the hotel at the point in time and hence, no time wasted to hail another one from the streets.

While they sped towards the airport, upon arrival, we found out after waiting in line for about 20 minutes that we were at the wrong terminal! Although the ticket stated that it was American Airlines, this particular flight was in fact operated by Alaskan Airlines and the terminal is a good 500 meters away and we have only 30 minutes before flight time.

I honestly thought, at that point, we would be missing our flight and resigned to that fact that we would have to pay for another one later. I seriously cannot think of how I could move 5 pieces of 29" bags, one 25" bag and two cabin bags with Ryan, to run 500 meters to the next terminal.

But God was on our side. Just as all hope was lost, a man appeared with a huge trolley and asked us if we needed help. "OF COURSE I NEEDED HELP AND I NEEDED HELP NOW!" While my wife took Ryan and half ran to the next terminal to check in, I frantically help him to load up the bags before running down the terminal myself.

And miraculously, we made it with 15 minutes or so to spare.

Upon arrival at Los Angeles International Airport, one of my 29" bags was missing. Upon checking with the counter staff, I was told that one piece of our luggage has been `randomly' selected by TSA for inspection and was unable to make it on the same flight. It would be delivered to our hotel later that day. We felt uneasy because we have some new expensive stuff in that bag.
When we finally got our bag the same afternoon, we found the bag with our brand new TSA lock missing. Inside was a note informing us that our bag has been opened for inspection and that TSA will not be responsible for damages to the lock should they need to break the lock to enable the inspection. We also found later that a new GUESS handbag stuffed with some branded children clothing were missing as well. And this is the SECOND time, we have this incident happening to us in Los Angeles. A couple of years back when we came back from LA, one of our bags was also opened and stuff were missing.

So, the question then is, who was and should be responsible for the loss?

If we were informed that we need to have TSA locks to enable TSA to unlock the bags for inspection without breaking them, why were the bags not locked back after the inspection? Why were the locks not put back in place?

Without the bags being re-locked after inspection, who then should be responsible for the loss of the contents of these `opened for inspection' luggage? Who could have taken the items? TSA or the ground crew of the airports or anyone who have access to the luggage before we do.

To make matters even worst, what if illegal drugs and materials have been inserted into these `opened for inspection' luggage with our knowledge and we be held liable for them when we get caught? So, once a bag has been randomly selected for inspection and left unlock by TSA, who should be responsible from this point forward for the contents of the luggage?

Why lock the luggage in the first place if the bags could be easily be subjected to random inspection by TSA who disclaim all liabilities after their inspection?

It is funny that this seemed to be happening to flights to USA and not the rest of the world (as far as my experience goes thus far)

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