General Question

AshlynM's avatar

Why do some people wrap their luggage in plastic wrap when traveling?

Asked by AshlynM (9457points) September 26th, 2011

Do baggage handlers open wrapped luggage?

Is wrapping your luggage really worth it? How about if you lock your suitcase? Will baggage handlers open the lock?

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39 Answers

WestRiverrat's avatar

Baggage handlers could, a lot of them are former prison inmates. But you are more likely to have a TSA agent open your bags and go through them.

zensky's avatar

Luggage can be expensive and hard to clean?

lillycoyote's avatar

I hope someone has a real answer to this one because I see this phenomenon all the time at airport luggage claim when I travel and I have alway wondered about it myself.

zensky's avatar

Mine was sincere.

Like people who put covers on sofa covers.

JLeslie's avatar

I agree with @zensky. It can be expensive, difficult to clean, and the way checked bags are thrown around, it might help avoid tears to the luggage. The bag I used most is now tearing a little at the top front zipper pocket, and the las time I went into NYC there seems to be some grease of some sort on the outside of the bag. My suitcase is over 10 years old, I almost always carried it on previously. Now that I have to check it most of the time, the abuse and wear to my bag is exponential. my husband once had his bag break open, probably frm them trowing it around. If it had been wrapped at least maybe he would have had less of his things inside the bag affected.

Miami is huge for wrapping suitcases, if you have ever flown out of that airport, especially the international side, you see a lot of people wrapping their suitcases. It wouldn’t surprise me if thereis a disporportionate amount of really nice luggage going through there.

lillycoyote's avatar

@zensky I certainly didn’t mean to imply that yours wasn’t a “real” answer. But you did put a question mark at the end of it which I took to mean, wrongly perhaps, that you were just guessing. I sure as heck don’t have the answer. At least you gave it a shot.

JLeslie's avatar

Also, if it rains, your bags are less likely to get soaked while being transported.

JLeslie's avatar

I found this when I googled Miami and luggage wrap.

lillycoyote's avatar

@JLeslie Good one. I guess it is for protecting the luggage. I see it a lot; it just would never occur to me to wrap my luggage in plastic, but your link suggests that enough people want to do it that the service is provided for them.

Sorry again my dearest @zensky :-) You may be right.

Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t think I have ever seen this while travelling. My initial thought was to make it easy to spot of someone has interfered with the bag. Really though, no idea.

JLeslie's avatar

Actually, @Bellatrix makes a good point. I think that probably is one of the reasons people choose to wrap. To discourage thieves. In Miami a huge percentage of the travelers come to America to shop.

Bellatrix's avatar

We had a situation here a few years ago where a woman claimed bag handlers had put drugs (large quantity of marijuana into her boogie board bag). This woman is currently serving a very long sentence in a Bali gaol. I don’t know if her claims are true or not but there was and continues to be a lot of media coverage about the case and much speculation about whether the baggage handlers could have done this. There was talk of a drug smuggling ring putting drugs into bags and then taking them out at the other end. People were quite paranoid about the possibility for a while. It would be harder for someone to do this if your bag was carefully wrapped in cling wrap.

lillycoyote's avatar

@Bellatrix and @JLeslie I think, at least in the U.S. it could only be used to discourage thieves if the luggage was wrapped after checking it. When traveling by air in the U.S. your luggage has to be available, able to be opened by the TSA should they want to inspect it. I am always asked if my luggage is unlocked when I check it and I always tell them yes, but it has a TSA accessible lock on it anyway.

JLeslie's avatar

@lillycoyote I think they have moved the wrap to after the bags are scanned and checked if I remember correctly.

Bellatrix's avatar

We don’t have the same rules here apparently @lilycoyote. Here, you can lock your bag and you send it through. If customs or whoever want to inspect it, they can break the lock but they have to put notification on your bag that they opened it. If you received your bag back without that notification you could then alert the authorities that someone has tampered with your bag. We had locked our bags when we travelled overseas and while we were asked if we packed our own bags and if we had left them unattended and if they contained any flammable items (there is a whole list of prohibited items) nobody challenged the bags being locked.

I have never wrapped our bags in cling film but my husband said he saw a few bags wrapped like this during our recent trip. He said it was a security measure against theft and bag tampering.

I should say I am talking about checked in luggage. Not carry on stuff. That was checked and scanned and I think you would have to wrap that after it had gone through that process. However, our baggage was scanned at each stop so it would be really painful to wrap your carry on baggage. I don’t think the authorities would like that at all.

prioritymail's avatar

Someone handling my bag once wrapped it in plastic. I can’t remember why or who it was (security, company that stores luggage at airport for a fee, hotel, ...?).

mrrich724's avatar

IT’s so it’s more evident if it’s been tampered with, as someone probably isn’t going to have a massive saran wrap spool to re-wrap it if they cut it open.

But it’s more rare as the TSA can and will go through anything they feel like. But if it is unwrapped b/c of the TSA, there will be a notice in your bag that states that the TSA went through it.

I know this b/c I’ve looked into it, as I’ve had to check/claim guns in my luggage.

filmfann's avatar

I have a couple suitcases that the TSA has broken the locks on.
Perhaps their locks are broken, and the wrap helps keep them closed.
If it is bubble wrap, perhaps they don’t want their suitcases damaged by the tossers.

JLeslie's avatar

Another comment, a lot of Latin Americans have huge, hard, suitcases. When something is heavy it is more likey to get thrown not carefully moved. When I worked in retail we threw boxes of clothing. The less time it is in your hands, the less back breaking. The hard cases are actually more likely to pop open than a soft zipper closure.

shrubbery's avatar

I also heard it was for discouraging thieves and to know if your bag has been tampered with. However, I was advised not to do it on my trip to South Africa because it would actually encourage thieves because they would think I have something valuable in my bag that I want to protect. I don’t know about that though. I just put cable ties on all my zips and no one questioned it. The security could just cut it but they’d have to let me know, right? So if they didn’t and the cable ties were cut then I’d know it’d been tampered with. Seems more practical and less obvious (less enticing perhaps) than wrapping it in plastic.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I used to ask the airline for a plastic bag for my backpack when travelling by air… when it was new. I just didn’t want someone stepping on the zippers and harming the bag. Now, I don’t really care.

Also… some people are very nervous about getting bedbugs while travelling, particularly during air travel (it happens). There are blogs devoted to this sort of thing, offering advice to travellers who want to protect their stuff.

Pandora's avatar

After seeing how some airports toss your luggage onto the runway floor; its no wonder why they decided to make this plastic wrap.
On my trip from Europe, my bag was covered in dirt and I can’t find a way to clean it.
Also it helps the belts and such, not get caught and ripped off.
It also protects agains bottles in other luggage that may get broken and leak out onto your bag.
Its also great to wrap your bag because it will keep your bag from being broken into. A thief looking to grab things from your bag will have to unrap it and rap it up again. Too much trouble.
It will also assure that no one puts something in your bag, trying to smuggle something like drugs, into your bag.

Pandora's avatar

@lillycoyote Yes, you are right. Your bag can’t be wrapped before it goes through security. At least in the last airport I went too.

Judi's avatar

A few years ago I had a really nice brand new Tumi suitcase. It was orange and pink. The first time I checked it, it came out with a big old greasy foot print in the middle of it. It had to have been intentional.
Now that bag has a lot of battle scars. It’s just a tool. I don’t think I would ever be so anal as to wrap it in plastic.

JLeslie's avatar

@shrubbery That is exactly why I never buy very expensive luggage. Anyone who as LV all over their bag I will never understand. I want my suitcase to be just another moderate bag coming through.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@zensky I agree. Many people see nice things and destroy or ruin them on purpose just because they don’t have it. Imagine that Samsonite Gorilla, taking your Bottega Veneta Alligator bags and with lunch grease still on their hands, tossing them, slamming them, whatever. People should in some airports, in some cases, start using bubble wrap! I have had my luggage broken into… It’s no fun. *Thanks JFK!

zensky's avatar

I only answered in the form of a question because I happened to have been watching Jeopardy at the time.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@zensky ROFLMAO! *Points to you sir for being hilarious, and or my not ever being completely sure if you mean to be or not. That’s how it’s done, when it’s done right!

raven860's avatar

I have to agree with what @lillycoyote said. I too always thought that the plastic wrap was to prevent thieves from stealing and I have seen this most common to be in Asian countries. Also, I dont know how plastic wraps works in the U.S as all lugages are required to be openable and only TSA locks can be put onto them unless you want to loose your lock.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

How hard is it to cut off plastic wrap? Not only do they remove it and still steal your stuff, they have the added pleasure of knowing that when it get’s on the conveyer belt, you will no longer recognize it as it was, and you will spend hours waiting looking for plastic until yours is the last piece on the belt and you have to look at it and say… *Oh geeze.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’ve never seen that kind of wrapping but when I looke @JLeslie‘s link, it made a lot of sense. Aside from protecting the surface, my first thought was a wrapped bag/case would less likely be targeted for someone to break into and steal from because it would slow them down and the bright wrapping call attention.

HungryGuy's avatar

I fly a lot (though I prefer to take the train), and I’ve never seen baggage on the carousels wrapped in plastic…

JLeslie's avatar

@HungryGuy Do you travel to Latin America a lot? That’s where I see it most at the American hub airports that service Latin American at the international check in.

blueknight73's avatar

A lot of people do it to keep bed bugs out.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@blueknight73: Great idea if it works! I might try these little baggies when we fly across country and then onto a cruise ship- bugs of any sort freak me the hell out.

HungryGuy's avatar

@JLeslie – Nope. Never been to Latin America. I travel mainly between the US and Europe. And I’ve been to India once.

JLeslie's avatar

@HungryGuy You wouldn’t have to actually tavel to Latin America, but the US Hub airports that fly Latin America have the wrap (or used to, I think they still do, the website I posted said they are still in Miami) like American Airlines, which is most of the airport in Miami, and I would assume DFW and Chicago, which is Americans other hubs. And, possibly Continental in Houston. I am sure there must be a few others.

fizzbanger's avatar

When I was flying from Athens to Chicago a few months ago, I wondered the same thing. People waiting in the check-in lines had already wrapped them up.

snowberry's avatar

The website indicated above says there’s a gps type tracking device attached to the bag, so it can easily be located anywhere in the world. If TSA opens up the bag, they need to be able to close it properly, or the bag would get lost. How could this be done if it has been “shrink wrapped? There is no indication what happens in the event the bag is removed by TSA.

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