Bag tampering and theft at airports 'a big problem', admits FlySafair
Bag tampering and the theft of valuable items from travellers at airports is a big problem that needs urgent intervention, FlySafair said on Thursday.
"It's a huge problem. We as airlines feel that we are terribly under siege," Kirby Gordon, the airline's head of sales and distribution, told TimesLIVE.
This comes after a recent tweet by anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee, who called on airlines to urgently intervene against bag tampering and theft at airports.
Several travellers backed Abramjee's call and immediately shared their own unpleasant experiences of bag tampering and theft. Some shared pictures showing how their bags had been cut open so that items could be stolen.
"Cape Town to Athens via Emirates, same problem! Two bags cut open and golfers stolen!" one person commented.
"Our bags are being tampered with each day," commented a second traveller. "Nobody wants to take responsibility, including the council themselves. Maybe CCTV is needed on luggage cabins, as well as the ending point of our bags. They start unzipping on those unsupervised carriers. No proper searches are conducted."
Gordon said due to the influx of people flying over the festive seasons, there had been a surge in incidents reported. "At this time of year, we as an airline are moving between 300,000 and 350,000 people," he said. "That then quickly comes up to about 100 people who are reporting theft or tampering."
Gordon advised victims to immediately open a criminal case. He said the airline would obtain a list from the traveller to assess what was stolen. He said assessments were done to ensure that travellers got the best possible compensation.
"It is very difficult because there is often no clear indication of what is taken and at times we get a lot of fraudulent claims," he said.
Gordon explained that baggage went through several points of contact while being handled at airports. From being received upon arrival, to going through several checks and security processes, and then to being loaded on to the aircraft.
"The problem in this process is that no one party has full control over the baggage as it progresses through the entire system," said Gordon.
"We would love to say we take full responsibility for the safety of all goods that are transported as checked baggage through our system, but in order for us to say that, we would need full control over the entire process. Otherwise we have no way to manage that risk ourselves."
He added that FlySafair was willing to put R100,000 on the table for "any party that can come forward and curb this".
"It is a big problem and we can't face it alone," he said.
The Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) had not commented by the time of publication.