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24/05/2008 – Security Of Checked Baggage : Is There A Better Way?
Last night while watching a line of people check in for the late ANA (NH) flight from Hong Kong (HKG) to Tokyo (HND), I found myself watching one man running tape around his zipper at the check in counter. I don’t know if it was to prevent theft or to repair a damaged zipper, but I found myself watching this wondering if this is the simple solutions airlines and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) must adopt to drastically cut down on thefts from checked baggage in the United States.
Many flyers use locks only to find their zipper as been jammed open with a knife and re-zipped, the locks have been opened with TSA ‘Sentry’ keys or the lock has been completely cut off. The frustration passengers feel when their bag arrives missing items they know they had checked, is massive. The answers to stopping baggage theft have become an impossible series of finger pointing situations between airlines and the TSA, which further frustrate flyer. In the end the lack of security of the contents of bags, under the noses of the federalized baggage screening process make both the TSA and the airlines look untrustworthy.
My solution is this………..ready for it?………..Simple paper based tape that is perforated with a stamped with a date stamp from the originating airport. The TSA currently places a small sticker on your checked bag’s baggage tag that states your bag has been x-rayed. I say do away with this sticker and use a paper based perforated tape that encircles the bag and place the date on that piece of tape in one or two locations. Each TSA agent should be issued their own stamp with their badge number on the stamper. By personalizing the stamps they cannot easily be replicated and passed around (such as the lack of security of obtaining a set of TSA ‘Sentry Lock” keys).
Once a piece of paper tape is torn, can never be repaired. Shipping warehouses have been using paper tape for years to prove if a package has or has not been tampered with. This way if a bag has been tampered with a passenger has a greater chance of knowing immediately upon retrieving their bags.
Paper based tape is low cost, low tech and highly effective. On a low-volume purchase, a case of paper tape costs approximately US$168 per case of heavy strength tape, a case of tape comes with 72 rolls, at 2″x55 yards. approximately 1 yard per bag, comes to around US$0.04 per bag. With the bulk the TSA would be buying these rolls of tape in I’m sure the cost would drop lower than $0.04. Stampers in bulk run about $6 per stamper, less expensive than the new “flashlights” in use at check points, and the costs will still be less than the new shift from “white uniforms to the new “blue uniforms” that can currently be seen at Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI).
With all the taxes and fees that passengers who fly within, through, or from the United States are forced to pay, I don’t see spending $0.04 per bag as such a financial burden…….if even with the rising costs of fuel.
Just a potentially simple solution that costs pennies per-bag to put into action.