Avoid Checking Valuables At The Philadelphia International Airport

According to evidence the Philadelphia Inquirer calls “anecdotal,” there seems to be a theft problem going on at the Philadelphia International Airport. Recently, quite a few baggage handlers were fired by US Airways for cooking the overtime logs in an attempt to get paid for work they never did.

Now the Inquirer says that the same group of baggage handlers have sticky fingers, especially when it comes to expensive electronic items like cameras and laptops.

From the Inquirer:

Evidence of the thefts is anecdotal, based on a stream of recent e-mails we’ve received. We’ve found little reliable data to show if incidents that passengers believe are thievery are greater at the airport or US Airways’ Philadelphia operation than they are elsewhere, or if the number of incidents has risen this year.

A message from Geoff Rabinowitz, a Marlton business traveler, is typical. He flies frequently enough to know the unwritten rule: Never put anything of value in a checked bag. But that’s what he did in late June on a US Airways flight from Boston to Philadelphia, checking two bags, one with his laptop computer inside.

Rabinowitz got his second bag back after the flight, but not the one containing the laptop. After he filed a report with US Airways, the bag was delivered to his home the next day – clothing disheveled and the computer gone. He’s gotten nowhere, he said, in trying to get compensation from the airline, which has a written policy that it isn’t responsible for items such as laptops and jewelry.

“I know it was stupid,” he said on the phone last week. “One of my biggest concerns, besides the fact they stole my property, is that, if they can get away with taking something out of bags, what can they put in bags without getting caught? In today’s world, that’s a pretty scary thought.”

Assuming the theft occurred at the airport, the culprits could be in one of three groups with access to bags: US Airways workers, baggage screeners from the Transportation Security Administration, or employees of private companies the airlines hire to deliver misplaced bags to passengers after they’re found.

the Inquirer talked to two US Airways baggage handlers that believe there is widespread theft going on at the Philly airport:

But two US Airways baggage handlers, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to reporters, say that many employees believe there is widespread theft, and that personal bags they carry to and from the job aren’t normally inspected as they leave work.

Being a thief “is pretty easy to do,” one of the ramp workers said. “There are lots of places where you can just pull off, and, sitting in the cart, go through bags.”

At least one alleged thief does have discriminating tastes in alcoholic beverages, according to Jennifer Dein, a college student from Villanova, who reported the loss of two pricey bottles of liquor from a checked bag en route from Philadelphia to Chicago. Left behind were two bottles of cheap champagne.

“It makes you wonder who they’re hiring, who their supervisors are, and what kind of surveillance they’re under,” said her father, Robert Dein, who reported the incident to the airline and recounted it in an e-mail.

US Airways customers who have reported items lost from checked bags say that almost as aggravating as finding that items are missing from luggage is the process of filing claims with the airline for lost or damaged bags. The airline’s performance is uneven, they said, with some reporting efficient and sympathetic handling of the claims and others reporting frustration in getting information.

So while you’re busy avoiding US Airways’ trans-atlantic flights, you should avoid checking anything valuable or alcoholic in any luggage that’s being routed through Philly, because this isn’t the first time we’ve heard of this sort of thing.

Reports of thefts from luggage at PHL [Philadelphia Inquirer]
(Photo:Joe Jones)

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