Johannesburg airport luggage checks?

Dec 7th, 2005, 08:46 AM
Original Poster
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Posts: 78
Johannesburg airport luggage checks?

I just got back today after a great holiday in SA, which included Madikwe, garden route, Cape Town and Vic Falls (will post a report later on). However on arriving back at London today I found our checked luggage had been opened, with both padlocks missing and the zip on one bag damaged so that it can no longer be locked. A quick check inside did not reveal anything missing (just souvenirs and clothes, although my wife had some jewellery that was untouched thankfully) and it was clear someone had looked through the contents. On reporting this to the airline luggage staff (BA) I was told that this is standard now in Jo'burg for them to inspect luggage so it was too bad that we had locked them. I was somewhat surprised to hear this as the check in lady never mentioned it and some others I know who have been there have not had the same problem. Apparently this is done now in both SA and the US - correct?

BA did agree to repair my suitcase so no financial loss (apart from a couple of padlocks) but it shocks me that either this happens to checked luggage or that BA failed to tell me about it (especially as we were travelling in first class).

Has anyone else had this experience? Should I complain to BA despite their offer of a repair?

JSCChan is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 10:10 AM
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In this day of heightened security, would you expect an airline to permit you to check a locked bag and not permit them access should they decide to examine the contents? I, for one, am glad that they examine checked luggage.
thit_cho is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 11:58 AM
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My point is I was not aware this is now a standard requirement, as I have never had this happen to me on any other flights. If it is something they do then it was not made clear to me at check-in.

Furthermore Jo'burg is renown for thefts from checked luggage (just google it) so a locked case would seem sensible to me. You just don't know who is looking at your luggage once it has been checked. I wouldn't do any different next time.
JSCChan is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 12:03 PM
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And I flew between two cities in the US and my luggage was searched without my presence. They did however politely leave a note in my bag advising that it had been scrutinsed.

I travel a lot and have always been advised by the check in crew not to lock my bags. Welcome to the world post 911.
mkhonzo is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 12:11 PM
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I have also received that note.

I thought this was common knowledge.
thit_cho is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 12:23 PM
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In this day you have to expect your luggage to be searched. Sometimes in your presence, sometimes out of presence. The reason, people are advised NOT to lock their luggage. The alternative, if done outside your presence is for airline personnel to break your lock and/or zippers.

Here in the States, for those folks who have had their bags searched by the TSA, a note is supposed to be inserted and the bag/s then closed (locked) with cable ties.

Have not been in JNB since 2001 (December - so after 9/11) the check-in procedure was such that ALL luggage was inspected after being weighed and before getting to the reservations agent. After the search, bags were locked (or not) by the passenger then was taken by the agent to be placed on the plane. There were passengers here for all airlines departing that evening, so same procedure regardless the carrier.

We then proceded thru Immigration, and not until we arrived at our gate, but before boarding flights, all passengers were patted down, all hand luggage carry-ons were inspected.

Whether what was done when we departed JNB has changed (apparently if your bag was later searched for whatever reason)... but one has to expect their bags to be inspected/searched everywhere. We've found this to be true in every country we've visited since 9/11.

So, no more locks for us. We use cable ties only - placing a nail clipper in outside zipper pocket of the bags to snip open on arrival at your destination. And never ever pack anything of value in checked luggage... jewelry should go in your carryon.

Sorry for your rude awakening to the world of post-9/11!

Dec 7th, 2005, 12:30 PM
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How much jewelry does one need on safari that its too heavy to pack in carry-on luggage? First rule of packing is don't check valuables or medicine.
thit_cho is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 01:38 PM
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Maybe this is not so common outside the US as I have not been advised of this practice on any other flights I have been on, there wasn't any note inside my luggage.

Also my concerns were raised in response to earlier experiences of other Fodorites at Jo'burg airport - seems I'm not the only one who locks if this thread is anything to go by
JSCChan is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 02:29 PM
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We flew from London to Johannesburg and back last month, and at no time was our luggage opened and checked. That was my first trip to South Africa, so I don't know whether our experience or yours is more common.
Vorkuta is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 02:58 PM
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JSCChan -

You refer to that one thread. As they say [email protected]!%t happens.

There are regular reports of airline ground personal (baggage handlers) riffling through bags at airports in the States (and in Europe). That's the price we pay for travel these days.

But why anyone would put valuables in a checked bag or other than your handbag or backpack that won't, at the last minute, be pulled from you (overweight or temperment of the agent) and checked... is beyond me.

Whether I'm taking expensive or costume jewelry... it's on my body and nowhere else. Likewise, my camera is with me as are the batteries and chips (in camera case). And the meds, passport, airline tickets, etc. You just do not tempt fate that people who handle your belongings - airport staff, in hotel rooms, at tent camps - are all honest. Most are!

But please............... don't leave your brains at home when you lock the house/apartment door.
Dec 8th, 2005, 12:58 AM
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Seems there is a confusion of 2 topics here - packing valuables in checked luggage vs. security checks. My intention was to discuss the latter only.

None of the contents in our luggage was valuable (even the jewellery), hence they did not take anything - we did make sure we had in our carry-on cameras, portable DVD player, lens, binoculars, etc as we were well aware of the risks. What shocked me was that both our bags were padlocked yet they still broke it open, and I am still unsure whether this was actually a security check or some opportunistic thieves.

Thankfully we were not majorly impacted as it was the end of our holiday but I wanted to raise awareness of this as I for one have never been notified of such checks despite regularly flying on business. I would be interested to know if anyone else flying non-US has been told of this.

I have no problem with my bags being searched and would be more than happy with the procedure that sandi described (pre-check in search and personal search at gate) but once a bag is checked I would sleep easier knowing that there isn't someone around the back still opening cases.
JSCChan is offline  

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