When we travel via airplane with check-in baggage, we would usually wrap our check-in bags at home the night before we leave for the trip.
We have lots of reasons why we always did that and here are the highlights of why you should do it too.
Prevent damages to the suitcase
We’ve seen videos of how baggage handlers hurl, toss and drag baggage to fit into an airplane’s belly. The handlers were never ‘gentle’ when they’re at work. They have a good reason for this, sort of.
Put yourself in his or her steel toe shoes, working 9-10 hours a day, lifting heavy bags all day long. Would you handle all that with care? I guess not. I can’t blame them for the dings and dangs on our precious cargo.
Travelling during the COVID19 pandemic
There was only once that my baggage wrappings looked great when I claimed it from the carousel. It was on my recent-trip back to Malaysia during the pandemic.
That was because the airplane I boarded had only 20 passengers on board an Airbus A350-1000. So the baggage handlers were probably having a super-great day at work loading the suitcases.
Usually, a full airplane that size could fit between 300 to 400 passengers at a time. And almost every passengers have 2 to 3 bags going into the cargo hold. Just imagine the pain of arranging all that luggage!
If your check-in baggage got damaged by the airline, they will take a very long time before you could get your claims.
If you ever get paid, it might not even cover the suitcase’s value, let alone the contents.
So, avoid the hassle. Wrap your bags before checking-in, take pictures for records and add travel insurance with ‘luggage damage cover’ if necessary.
Stop your suitcase or bag from ‘exploding’!
Your suitcase is very most likely going to be piled like Tetris into crates to fit into the airplane’s belly.
I’ve seen my suitcase ‘exploded’ once upon collection at the airport’s luggage carousel. I was lucky that there were only clothes and soft items in the particular suitcase.
My suitcase got compressed like a burger that was smashed by a trash compactor. The contents just oozed out like mayonnaise out of the zippers.
I did not take any photos because it happened way before I could afford a camera phone.
Even if I did, I was in shock to see my suitcase in that condition -dead on arrival (DOA).
The second incident happened when I travelled back to the UK in Winter of 2016. I brought my fishing rods and reels in a fishing tube, but I didn’t wrap the tube when checking in.
The rod tube was left on the floor at baggage claims and the reels were left next to it. The ‘sponge stuffings’ oozed out like-mayonnaise –again. I was lucky that nothing broke or went missing.
From then on, I had this bag wrapping procedure as a ‘ritual’ for safe travels. Its always written and highlighted in my before travels to-do list.
Wrap to deter theft
I’ve heard of many horror stories about belongings gone missing when in transit. They are not pleasant and always gives you that fear of handing over your suitcase to the airport staff.
There were cases where the suitcase was intact upon collection at baggage claims. But upon opening the suitcase, something was missing.
Just so you know, the TSA Approved lockset you have on your suitcase is not bulletproof.
It simply means, a TSA agent or Transport Security Adminstration (TSA) could have a master-key to open your suitcase if necessary.
In other words, another person, other than you (as the owner) could actually open the bag or open a padlock ‘if needed’, with either good or bad intentions.
If you go on the internet, you can find spare keys to your suitcase for cheap. That simply means anyone can open it if they find the corresponding key.
We’ve done some research into baggage wrapping and found that some people against wrapping bags as it’ll be a waste if the Security Officer have to cut it open.
Yes, we agree with that statement. But if the officers decide to open your wrappings, they would have to seal it back with a ‘TSA tape” to let you know that it had been opened in a secured area (eg. with CCTV camera footages or higher-rank officers present).
I’ve never had this experience before, but I believe that there must be a standard procedure in place.
Wrap your bags first, if the officials want to pop it open, let them do it if needed.
At least you know what is within the wrappings are your items and they must ask for your permission to open it in your presence.
I’ve also heard from a baggage-handler ‘friend’ long time ago that your standard zipper on a suitcase or a bag could be easily opened with a ballpoint pen.
I didn’t probe any further about how they obtain such knowledge, but it was enough to give me the chills down my back.
Wrapping your suitcase deters these ‘zipper-slicing thieves’ because they cannot open the zip without tearing/cutting the plastic wrapping first. It’s just too risky for them to try opening your bag unnoticed.
Even if they did, that’s going to be the first thing you’ll notice upon picking up your luggage.
Avoid getting sabotaged!
I know this might sound a little bit paranoid, but I have a good reason to be -paranoid.
We believe that the airports around the world have a strict security protocol with their employment policy running background-checks, but there would still be chances for a few bad-apples to sneak past the filters.
There was an article about baggage sabotage that caught my attention recently. It was about Simeon Wilson that travelled on Caribbean Airlines between Jamaica and the USA to visit his family.
The US Customs officers arrested him for carrying 2kgs of Cocaine into the airport. Google “Simeon Wilson” and you’ll find his horror story.
Of course, he didn’t wrap his suitcase when checking-in.
If you wrap your suitcase, its just too much hassle for whoever that wants to use your luggage as a mule to transport illegal items.
They’ll just go for the next poor guy’s suitcase that wasn’t wrapped. Again, avoid the hassle, just wrap the suitcase!
Reduce the chance of suitcase going missing!
This reminds me of our nightmare of almost losing our luggages on our way back to Malaysia in 2018.
We flew from London Heathrow (LHR) to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (KUL) with a transit in Muscat, Oman (MCT).
The flight arrived late in Oman, that Consu and myself sprinted from one gate to the other gate to catch the connecting flight.
It was not too far between the two gates and planes. So we thought the suitcases will be fine being transferred over to the new plane. We were wrong.
When we arrived in Kuala Lumpur airport, we waited for our baggage at the carousel. It was the longest hour we ever lived!
So we filed a missing-luggage report with the airport’s authorities and showed them pictures of the bags for identification. Good thing we’ve wrapped and placed A4 sized labels on both bags!
That makes it a lot easier for them to identify and dispatch the bags back to us in Kuala Lumpur. So, we survived 5 days and 4 nights without any fresh clothes, toiletries and necessities.
Some of the passengers didn’t manage to get their suitcases back, they all went missing or might have been misplaced! Yikes!
When that happens, it’ll take anywhere from 1 week to 1 month before you get your luggage back, if you’re lucky.
This was how we wrapped our suitcases, with BIG labels!
Protect it from stains!
Just imagine on a rainy season, and the tarmac is all wet and muddy from heavy airport traffic.
If the baggage handler accidentally drop your bag onto the floor while transferring them, it’ll definitely get stained! Euww!
My favorite Samsonite
My bright-red Samsonite duffle bag got stained when I first bought it. The handlers probably dragged it along a conveyor somewhere that it caught a patch of heavy-grease.
The wrapping probably got worn off by the 3 plane transfers on my journey from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Los Angeles (LAX).
I couldn’t imagine not having the wrappings, the bag would probably end up in a landfill somewhere by now.
The bottom line
So if you wish to secure your suitcase, get the “Pallet Stretch Wrap Cling Film” from packaging stores near you. Or just Google the keyword and click on the Shopping tab below the search field.
You’ll save a lot more than paying a lot of money getting the wrappings done at the airport. Plus, you’ll get a good amount of workout wrapping your own bag, ideally with a partner to assist you. One person hold the wrapper roll, the other maneuver the bag.
We usually have a roll of this cling-film handy in storage for our spontaneous travels. A single roll of about 250 metres long could last us 3-4 trips of 2 suitcases travelling together.
It usually costs about £10.00/roll, so that works out to be about £2.50/trip or £1.25/suitcase per way, in comparison to airport bag wrapping services charging £15-20/suitcase per way.
Of course, you could also just pay the commercial rates and watch their fancy machine wrap the bags for you.