Maybe It's Not Lost. Maybe Your Bag Was Stolen

Lindbergh Field, most other airports lack bag tag checks

Planning an airline trip during the holiday season? You might want to pay extra attention to your check-in luggage, because there probably won't be anyone else to make sure it doesn't wind up stolen.

The arrest of a Phoenix couple last week is proof of that. Authorities there found nearly 1,000 pieces of stolen luggage at the home of Keith King and his wife, Stacy, who neighbors said, held yard sales offering items typically checked in by air travelers.

At Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, where the luggage was apparently was lifted, there's nobody on duty to match passengers' bag tags and claim stubs. Ditto for San Diego's Lindbergh Field and all but a handful of major airports.

Over the past decade, baggage-claim checking has become anything but routine throughout the nation's airline industry, something ripoff artists are aware of.

Air travelers seem somewhat oblivious to the fact that their luggage is less than secure.

"That's crazy," said Oakland resident Erin Vinson after learning about the Phoenix thefts while waiting Thursday for her travel bag to come by on a carousel at Lindbergh Field.

"I wouldn't imagine how you could come up with doing that as a profession -- stealing people's luggage," Vinson added. "Doesn't make sense to me at all."

Rancho Penasquitos resident Linda Evanoff can only wonder whether the bag she checked in at McCarron Airport in Las Vegas Thursday morning had gone missing due to carelessness or theft.

"It's a black-and-white animal print, and I purposely have that bag so I can find it, because I do travel quite a bit," Evanoff said.

Told of the Phoenix case and asked whether her bag might have been stolen, she replied: "That's interesting. I don't know. I hadn't thought about that."

In telephone interviews Thursday, airline and airport industry trade group representatives said that the theft rate for check-in luggage is too low to justify the costs of hiring security personnel or delaying passengers going through checkout queues. Not everyone agrees, though

"I say bring it back," Sylves said.

There's doubt the procedure will make a comeback.

"Things are so tough right now with airlines, I would doubt it," said Solana Beach resident Becky Chamberlain as she waited near Carousel 1 for her mother's luggage.

"There's just so many problems with the economy and travel in general that there's a long list of things that need to be focused on," Chamberlain said.

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