12
Jun
2009

It hasn’t yet taken off in the US, but checked-luggage wrapping stations are cropping up in airports around the world. For a fee, an attendant will encase your suitcase in plastic wrap. A few small incisions to restore access to the handles and wheels, and off you go.

I’m admittedly a skeptic, though I jealously wonder how fat the margins are in this business.

On the one hand, I see the logic: If it’s wrapped tightly with plastic, it’s less likely to break open or be damaged by moisture. Some of these services, such as SecureWrap, also include some luggage insurance in the cost of the wrapping.

But how much protection is this, really? An airport security official looking to inspect your bag’s contents will just cut the plastic right off. A determined thief will do the same. How much protection is this, really? And for 6 euros (the price charged at Madrid) or 9 dollars (the price at JFK) per item, is this money well spent?

Hit the poll and the comments below the video.

Is plastic luggage wrapping a brilliant new service or a colossal waste of money?

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Categorized in: airports, luggage, travel

47 Responses to “Baggage Wrapping: Brilliant or Stupid?”

  1. S A Says:

    Fat margins, indeed. This isn’t skilled labor, and I imagine that industrial-sized Saran Wrap isn’t too pricey. The biggest costs are the spinny-thing machine and the rent I assume they pay to the airport.

    Stupid, by the way.

  2. Oliver Says:

    I have seen these for years, mostly in 2nd or 3rd world airports. Never used them, though. Some theories on why they popped up there first (I think?):

    - higher perceived risk of luggage pilfering (I never had a problem)

    - more pax depart with more fragile and/or overstuffed suitcases and boxes

    I never have anything but clothing in my suitcase if I actually check one, and the clothing I take on vacation isn’t exactly designer material, so if anyone really, really wants my used underwear and t-shirts, be my guest.

  3. Anil Says:

    These are widely used at Turkish airports and although it looks good I doubt the cost is worth the limited protection it buys. A slightly tougher suitcase than average would be a smarter investment.

  4. BC Says:

    I would love to hear from one of the people who voted that this is worth the money. What’s your logic? come on, there are (currently) five of you… fess up!

  5. Dan Says:

    I would love to see it integrated with TSA inspection. After scanning, your bag could be sealed, with a guarantee that it wont be opened or rescanned, and if you have to transfer terminals, etc with your checked luggage, it doesnt need to be rescanned, as long as the wrap is undamaged.

    OTOH, its terrible environmentally.

  6. jennifer rose Says:

    I’m a devotee of luggage wrapping. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times that a zipper pull or zipper lock on bare baggage has been mutilated. Or my bag delivered to me at baggage claim soil and even sopping wet. Of course, a determined thief can break into anything. But if that thief has to choose between my Saraned luggage and the evidence of a heap of plastic wrap or your bare, naked, unprotected luggage, I’ll lay good odds that he won’t touch mine. I wish all airports had spin-wrapping facilities for luggage.

  7. mark Says:

    It’s dumb. At $9 a whack, the outlay over time will far exceed the average traveler’s expected loss from incremental damage or theft.

    Also, not to get all Kantian here, but what if everybody used this service? It’s bad enough that half the bags on the carousel are identical black roll-aboards. Imagine all those same bags emerging in identical plastic cocoons, their luggage tags/colored handle grips/other distinguishing features obscured? Mayhem.

  8. nzm Says:

    I agree with jennifer rose’s point – a thief is mostly an opportunist, taking the least effort to grab what he/she can. The plastic wrap could be a deterrent in the baggage handling area and make them look for easier cases to target. Also protects the zippers.

    Have seen these in action at airports all over the world. At Dubai’s, it mostly used by the African and Indian people taking oversized luggage back home in cartons and bags with no real means of securing them. They get them wrapped as a means of, hopefully, having the items arrive intact on the other side.

    Barcelona is the only airport where we have been approached by a sales rep (some distance from the machine) asking if we would like to have our luggage wrapped. Unfortunately, she asked us as we had arrived, so there was little point – although maybe it would be a good deterrent against the pickpockets and thieves in the city’s metro!

  9. David Thomson Says:

    This has been done in Colombian Airports for many years now, for flights to the US or Europe. The rationale behind it is that this will make the suitcase harder to break in to and have people place drugs INSIDE the case. This has little to do with theft prevention. There have been a number of publicized cases in Colombia over the years of peoples bags having been opened and having had drugs placed in them. When the bag’s owner arrives in the US, he is carted of to jail (innocently) while the DEA makes a proud infomercial, while 10 other bags slip through unawares…
    The idea is that if the plastic has been tampered with at all, this will certainly help any legal defense.
    So in this case, it does have some validity.

  10. Andy Hayes Says:

    Interesting, David – these are hugely popular here in Europe so I always wondered what on earth the point was…

  11. JK Says:

    ugh…unfortunately my wife and I were “forced” to use this device. We had our daughter’s car seat that we wanted to gate check (and pick-up at the gate when disembarking).

    (Daughter was <2 yrs old at the time and we didn't buy her a seat, for the short JFK-YYZ flight.)

    LAN insisted that they couldn't accept it at the gate and we had to check it.

    We said: OK. Let's check it.

    They said: We can't check it like that, go wrap it. Then, get back in line and re-start the check-in process all over again.

    We said: Ugh. OK. (What are we going to say? No?)

    On the upside, the price of the flight was VERY low (about $70 ea.), so an extra $9 was not a major issue, and the wrapping was so good we could have lost it over Lake Ontario and retrieved it completely dry.

    The kicker(s):
    -we got on the plane and saw it was nearly completely empty. We could have put the seat ANYWHERE.
    -LAN lost our stroller for 3 days and were nearly impossible to reach when calling to find out where it was

    (but I digress…)

    We used a wrapper at JFK…and at least they do a damn good job for the suckers that want/need to use it.

  12. Wilson Phillips Says:

    Check out these links and you’ll understand why. They are just a few of many, there are literally dozens of similar stories, just google for more.. Every couple months or year or so they bust another person or group of airport workers lifting small valuable items out of luggage. And that’s just in the US, in developing countries I can’t imagine it’s not a major problem as well. I’d imagine this is what the wrapping is for, and that it’s quite effective. Typically you hear of workers making a quick open and grab what they see move as a bag comes through the system on the way to the belt.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yN7G9QHHomY
    http://www.kyw1060.com/TSA-Screener-Accused-of-Stealing-From-Luggage-at-P/4529295
    http://www.wtop.com/?nid=732&sid=1566121

    Oh this is pretty amusing too while you’re at it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ikW5mK4Zeg

  13. Brandon Says:

    Most of my travel is domestic or transborder (Canada/US) with either a direct flight or max 1 connection to major moderm facilities. I suppose if I were travelling on a multi stop itinerary across the globe where the chance of theft and damage increased (many more hands and machined contacting the bag) I may use it. In my regular travels it is just a waste of $9.

  14. nike Says:

    I use these sometimes on bags, and backpacks when travelling internationally and BACK from foreign locations. Often times, I have a bag that might have been compromised and or there are many pockets or zippered pockets containing items that could easily be taken.

    I’ve paid between 3$ US and 10$ US from Latin America, China and Europe. I dont’ use it all the time, I CERTAINLY would not use it for simple domestic travel with one of my quality suitcases, but for the type of items/travel described at the beginning of my comment – certainly, I’ll continue to pay what is a relatively small fee for the convenience and hassle reduction of damage/theft/loss I think it deters.

  15. YOMO Says:

    I used this service one time when traveling from JFK internationally with a stop in Europe.
    I had a cardboard box of books. It weighed to the limit. I had a felling without the help of the plastic wrapping I wouldn’t even find the books sliding down one by one on the baggage belt at my destination.
    I confess, I did get it wrapped up, and i gotta say, it was amazing. I’m sure that was the only reason the box (and books) were in ship shape was only to the credit of the plastic wrap.
    Although I did think about it being opened by the TSA. I dismissed that thought because I believe that they anyways x-ray everything and open up baggage that they think that they need to put their hands on. Being that the content of the box was just books, I decided it was safe.

  16. Benjamin Says:

    I think the baggage handlers in some “third world” airports have a deal with the baggage wrappers to damage the bags of nice looking bags that come off of European and U.S. flights. I have received so many bags from these airports that are so badly damaged (straps missing, pull handles gone) that I can’t image it was caused by negligence alone.

    C’est la vie.

  17. The Global Traveller Says:

    They became popular in Australia following the case of Michelle Corby. Her unsuccessful defence against drugs important charges in Indonesia were they were planted in her bags.

  18. Mark Ashley Says:

    Interesting discussion, thanks for all the comments.

    David Thomson’s comments re: Colombian airports are particularly disturbing, and are perhaps sufficient reason for use from certain locales. Perhaps the poll should have asked which from departure airports it would be appropriate to use such a service.

    I’ll also echo Dan’s comments that this isn’t exactly an eco-friendly service. But then again, putting destroyed baggage into a landfill isn’t all that green, either.

    @mark, I always appreciate a Kantian response. And yes, if this really took off, even if “only” half the bags were wrapped, you’d see mayhem at the carousels. Then again, the wrappers might innovate, and offer different colors of wrapping, or stickers and decorations for an extra fee. The possibilities are endless.

  19. aman Says:

    found it useful to use around India, for similar reason viz @David’s Columbian experience, but also airlines tend to be less picky about luggage weight if it is wrapped. Rumours are that the airline staff get a cut of the fee.

  20. Brian Says:

    Just what we need… the introduction of more wasteful plastic into an already over-burdened environment. Get a TSA-approved lock or carry your valuables in a carry-on. As for saying that “putting destroyed baggage into a landfill isn’t all that green, either”, I certainly agree. But really, is wrapping your suitcase in cellophane really protecting it from being junked? I somehow doubt it. It’s a miracle my bag has made it over 280,000 miles so far and works just fine!

  21. PFR Says:

    From an environmental perspective, this is stupid beyond belief.

  22. MCJ Says:

    How much does it cost to wrap a bag at Heathrow airport? I

  23. Satel-95 Ltd. Says:

    Hello to all having left those comments.
    Our company is one of the manufacturer for such equipment (bags wrap machines). That is an excellent opportunity for anyone to start this business, don’t think only for the benefits for the passengers.
    having the bags wrapped with that hard to tear plastic (100 % recyclable) your luggage shall survive most of the troubles during the transportation like: accidental openings, steeling things from inside (because it is difficult for the thefts to open the suitcase, they prefer more easy catch), dust, pollution (can you imagine that most of the suitcases for travel are standing in your rooms without to be cleaned after the journey), dump. There are many cases in which the passenger needs to wrap something he has bought from the market as souvenir, we are even wrapping fragile items, cooling boxes with liquids. many traveler have more than two items and some times the only chance to put all of them as checked luggage is to make wrapping of two of them (becoming after the wrapping one pcs). There are so many advantages for having your suitcase wrapped!
    If someone wants to chare his opinion directly, we shall love to her the arguments at:
    airportservice@abv.bg
    To al of you have a good luck!

  24. Luu Says:

    This service actually includes insurance for open packages, so if you’re carrying a package that contains sth that may be opened or stolen, then its better to wrap it, tho it doesnt really make much sense!
    We never did it, we got stolen a perfume from our suitcases, we probably saved more money from just not paying the 10 times a year we get on airplanes, cause the perfume was not worth more than 60 dollars, but anyway, they pay for it if anything is stolen!

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    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYY5lVh_d-o

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  26. Karin Says:

    Well, I use the service & it’s worth every penny! My suitcases are white and to save on sending them into cleaning after travel, this is quite the alternative.

    If you’re a cheap stake vacationer with back packs etc. most obviously you will not see the value in this machine anyway. It is very relevant and I endorse it!

  27. Roy Says:

    I travel extensively in Asia and Africa for business. My economy fare tickets cost between $1,500 and $3,000 depending on where and when I travel. I shrink wrap my bag as insurance for the sum of $5 to $12 dollars on my flights to far away places and definitely upon my return flights. I am not concerned about loosing my bag, damaging my bag or preventing it from getting wet. What I am deeply concerned about is someone inserting something into my bag and I get caught upon arrival with something illicit. I can claim all I want that I didn’t put the item in my bag, but it is my bag and I am responsible for it. Paying to get my bag wrapped is inexpensive insurance as I am sure that baggage handlers and others will select an easier target. If someone really wants to get into my bag, they will but then it is obvious that the wrap has been tampered with. But they must be assured that there is something worth stealing and have the time to remove the wrap and take or place something into the bag. For me, the shrink wrap is a small insurance policy, a lot cheaper than explaining and proving that I didn’t place the drugs in my bag. And don’t be fooled that it only happens overseas. Theft happens everywhere including at American and Canadian airports and in post office sorting plants.

  28. Rachel Says:

    I have a question to Mr.David Thomson Have you ever been to Colombia? I mean those are isolated cases for god’s sake, yeah I admit that sometimes they steal things, but putting drugs in your luggage? OMG! I hate that stupid stereotype where all Colombians are drug dealers…. if I believed in stereotypes I would say that all Americans are stupid, and of course they’re not!

  29. Babbette Says:

    Bedbugs can get in your luggage from other people’s luggage in the hold. Yeah, I’d pay it. $9 to save $thous for bedbug eradication in my home from hitchikers, it’s worth it.
    Those things are everywhere.

  30. Rick Says:

    It’s a great idea and who talk bad about I believe is jelous or may be nevar trip.
    Is a multy bilion business and I apologize for US but the clevar italian guy opened this business now have a turnover of more than 40 MILION EURO per year !!! Now call himm stupid if you can, or call his idea dam, if you do I believe you are only jelous…
    I use this wrapping from 6 years and I fly about 100 times per year and believe me also in short routes is a best since the wrap:
    - protect your luggage from scratch and zip broken
    - keep far bad guys
    - the price of 9 euro or 10 US$ is not too much if compared with the unconvenient to trip with a bronken luggage or arrived at destination with many of your cloths lost
    - no one will think to place inside the luggage something illegal

  31. Rafael Osorno Says:

    I’ve recently had an incident with this service, specifically with SecureWrap. Long story short, we payed for the service, but recieved the bags 48 hrs later without the plastic, and several of the items, such as clothes, cables, usb sticks, perfumes, small gifts, sweaters, a suit and even a pair of shoes, were stolen on the way. When we contact this crappy company, they told me that the plastic is only to “reduce the posibility..”, assuming no responsability or insurance service (worldwide, as the website states) for the customer. In other words, it’s a waste of your money!!! They operate on the dark side of the law (not TSA recognized) they sell you a “protection” service for $10/$15 usd, but they wont accept ANY claim at all. If plastic arrives opened or absent at all its exactly the same…. I would never waste a buck on these thiefs…

  32. RASHAM SINGH Says:

    ON 28 AUGUST 2010 WHEN I WAS GOING TO VIENA BY AUSTRIAN AIRLINES I HAVE GET WRAPRING MY BAGGAGE FROM MR.JATINDER YADAV ON NEW DELHI AIR PORT AT 09:09 PM WIDE RECEIPT NO. DEL-C-2-40R-49.BUT WHEN I HAVE SEE MY BAGGAGE BY REACHING ITALY MY BAGGAGE WAS FOUND BADLY DAMAGE AND I HAVE PHOGRAPHS FOR THIS FOR PROOF.PLEASE GIVE ME CLAIME FOR THIS.MY COTACT NO. IN INDIA-[redacted / commenter contacted] AND IN ITALY-[redacted].

  33. indian Says:

    i am going to get my luggage wrapped at jfk as the way my luggage was mishandled during my travel from delhi to jfk (i flew directly) , i wouldnt want to risk spoiling my newly bought hard case luggage . my aim is to protect it from physical damage.

  34. Patricia Says:

    Personally I think it’s a brilliant idea. yes, you could wrap your own bags at home in clingwrap before you leave, which I never remember to do. To pilfer, one would simply steal the whole suitcase, so this is not the solution for security. However, it gives me peace of mind when my bags weigh about 30kgs that they won’t burst out all over the place should a zip fail. I’ve used it on numerous occasions and in another way it also shows whether or not your luggage has, in fact, been tampered with – if it arrives still nicely wrapped, you know your contents are still there! It’s a personal choice – don’t diss it just cos you didn’t think of it first. Someone is making good money out of plastic wrapping. Wish I’d thought of it.

  35. Taba Says:

    I used a similar service as this to fly to Sydney to London for my suitcase.

    Reason? I stuffed so much stuff in my small suitcase I was worried it wouldn’t hold itself together. Best option ever. :)

  36. Elvira Says:

    I’ve been working for a wrapping service company for over 5 years now. I’ve heard so many different stories about why people wan’t to get their baggage wrapped it would take days to write them down, and it only shows how many different reasons there is to wrap your bag. If you feel that $5-$12 is too much thats up to you. Why complain on a service that came up on passenger demands. I’m not writing this to protect the business but the sum is not that high if you consider how many things that has to be payed not to mention our backs thats not even replaceable.

    I know if i had a $800 white suitcase like the customer i had last week, i know for sure i’d pay $5-$12.

    ;)

  37. mark Says:

    protection against thieves, damage, and smuggled drugs inserted in luggages.

  38. Asad Says:

    Baggage wrapping is a very good solution for minor wear and tear. It also minimizes the pilferage of vaulable significantly.
    I worked in different airports for baggage services. I have seen bags in openned conditions due poor handling, weather, heat, pilferage, human errors and some times due over packing of stuff in the bag.
    Bags when we check-in at the airport are sorted, segregated and loaded in containers, later on arrival again these bags are taken to sorting area, offloaded and lot of manual labour is involved in it.
    Wrapping your bag not only saves ur bag in getting damaged or pilfered but also it avoids interchange ( switch ) of bags with other customer’s bag, which is also a vital issue of delay or loss of baggage.

  39. Isabella Says:

    The airport personal do not care for your suitcases and will handle it in a very destructive way. Every single time I had to fly out from JFK I needed to buy a new set for my next trip. The wrapping not only protect your bag for future uses but also helps to protect your luggage from thieves. They always look for easier targets once they need to act fast and if you are one of the ‘lucky’ chosen by customs to get inspected they can just cut it out.

  40. RenV Says:

    Have to say – I wouldn’t travel without it. It’s the only deterrent irritating enough to individuals and believe me – your cases are well protected from leaks and spills – it keeps the locks and zippers in place and stops the ends and sides from being torn to shreds by some of the machines they load with. Being a frequent Traveller it is certainly the only way to travel in the third world countries and, I have to admit should be mandatory. In africa, if you keep your mouth open they’d steal your teeth, and this is just a more frustrating manner for them to try and gain access. Not good if there’s luggage delays or lost luggage. But I gladly pay for this service and look for it throughout my travels.

  41. J-1: on la boucle! « Caroline2012 Says:

    [...] son bagage accessible à toute inspection dans les aéroports a suscité un nouveau commerce: l’emballage des valises en film plastique, qui se pratique dans les aéroports. L’utilité du procédé sera surtout [...]

  42. YEONGJI Says:

    No choice but to use this method when I come back from vacation! I don’t get why people will use it for an actual luggage, unless they have valuables in there and/or stuff that can be broken easily, but if one of your luggage is a backpack, you will need it. Not only because it will prevent the bag from ripping apart, but also to increase the security on the bag.

  43. Katemari Says:

    I have used it before, and will use it again next week. I don’t use this service for my regular travels, domestic or otherwise. I don’t buy suitcases that are so expensive that I would be afraid of using them. As a matter of fact, I try to pack light and have only carry-ons. So the time I used this service is for carrying LOTS of stuff, when moving from cities or countries. Then I buy a very very cheap and light bag, fill it with clothes, and wrap it. The bag is usually worth just to one trip. Two maybe. But it holds a lot of stuff, since its almost weightless.

    I’m so glad they have this service on terminal 4 in JFK, the terminal I’ll be using next week!

  44. Seb Sellors Says:

    It’s not meant to be a security measure – anyone who can be bothered to break into your case to steal your property is going to be equipped with a sharp knife at the very least. It’s not supposed to keep security out of your bag.

    It’s meant to be a cosmetic protection so that the apes who work in baggage handling have less chance of skinning your bag when they’re playing catch with it, and to keep out infestation from your fellow travellers who may have been staying in bug-ridden hotels. Google ‘bedbugs’ and ‘luggage’ and then tell me it’s a stupid idea to prevent the little beasties from getting into your nice clean bag.

  45. avi Says:

    This is a fantastic idea. Basically because, I usually travel on short business trips, for 3-4 days max. ALL my luggage is in a carry on bag, with attachment for laptop. Plus I have to do the drill, of carrying liquids in clear plastic bag, 3-1-1 or whatever. Since 9/11 and all the idiot bombers, air travel is becoming more and more restrictive as far as cabin baggage is concerned. There used to be a time when I used to ask for A row “smoking compartment”. Ah, those were the days!!!

    Alternative is check in baggage, for which this wrapping is fantastic. On vacations i usually carry a backpack,with just a zip, all straps hanging out, with stuff inside like top end swiss knife, gerber multi tool (no I CANT travel without them) Cant carry knives in cabin baggage. This protects my backpack with all precious stuff, keeps people from putting drugs etc in my bag, and now I came to know even keeps bed bugs out? wow. Oh, and ALL airports have atrociously priced foodstuff for sale. I save on one beer, snack, at airport, which pays for this wrapping. Cheap.

  46. Sherry Says:

    Interesting! I was just thinking about that myself of a recent flight to Chile. I was wondering who to begin writing to so that I could get this stuff banned. What a hypocrisy! Here I stand looking at a $500 fuel surcharge on my ticket that will “help reduce my carbon footprint” and I turn around and see a freaking quarter mile of plastic being spun around a damn suitcase. I think we need to get on the same page in our society. Either we are committed to protecting ecosystems and doing what is right for the environment, or we dispense with the lip service and save the money we being gauged on almost every bill that comes through the door. Seeing this really bugged me :(

  47. Lee Says:

    How is it that no one has though of drug dealers using you as a free courier?

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