How Often Are Items Stolen From Checked Bags?

My friend Lee lost her gift set, which included some expensive makeup and electronics, from her checked baggage the first time she returned from Bangkok.

I sincerely hope this has never happened to you, but missing valuables are a common issue, especially on international flights.

In this post, I’ll tell you all about what to do if your valuable items go missing from your checked bag, and how to stop it from happening. I’ll also share what you can do if your items get damaged or taken.

Let’s get started with some useful tips.

woman packing items in checked bag
Never pack expensive items in your checked bag / Photo by Monstera on

Tip: Check out this Travelpro Platinum Elite 21” Carry-On Spinner, a sleek and versatile carry-on that is designed to fit within the limits of most airlines, to save you from the hassle of the airports and the pesky airline fees.

Can Anyone Just Steal Your Items From Your Checked baggage?

Airport baggage procedures are complicated and checked bags go a long way before it gets to the airplane.

And no matter what airline you are flying, checked bags will get x-rayed, searched and sometimes even inspected manually opened to ensure that it does not contain any prohibited items,  before it goes to the luggage handlers that sort each bag into its right flight.

In this process not anyone can touch your bag, only the security officers and luggage handlers have access to your suitcase.

The security checkpoint will confiscate an item if they see it as a possible security concern, or place them in the wrong bag because of the limited time they have.

All security officers are subject to a background check before hiring them, even though there are some of them that will act against the law and take an item intentionally from a passengers bag (not all of them of course).

Some irresponsible ramp workers and luggage handlers can also have a hand on that but it is rare when it occurs because they don’t have sufficient time to open a bag.

But it still happens often like in this Miami International Airport case when they set up a hidden camera and catch ramp workers taking items fro passers bags.

How Often Are Items Stolen From Checked Bags?

honestly missing items in checked baggage is not something that occurs all the time.

But on long international flights it happens quite often where irresponsible employees know that passengers are traveling far away and so they seize the opportunity.

Jewelry and watches are some of the most commonly stolen items, so it is good to never leave any expensive items inside your checked bag.

The TSA in the United States already warns travelers: ” Do not place jewelry, cash, electronics, medications, or fragile items in your hold baggage.”

What To Do If Your Items Are Missing In Your Checked Baggage?


Any time you receive your bag at the luggage claim, you need to determine if your bag was opened with the security officers or with someone else.

Take a quick look inside the bag to ensure everything is intact, especially when in doubt that bag is opened with the security officers.

To know if the TSA searched your bag, they will leave a notice baggage inspection inside.

Here is an example.

The TSA notice in checked baggage
The TSA notice inside checked baggage

And if you find an item lost or damaged and there is a TSA notice inside, you can file a missing items complaint at the TSA website and with your airline.

This procedure is applied for both carry-on and checked baggage, if the security officer damages or mishandles any item you need to make a claim.

On the other hand if there is no notice inside the bag, do not leave the airport unless you make a report and submit a claim with your airline and they will do their best to find your item.

Airports have cameras installed in every spot and in different places, so they are monitoring every movement, and will find a way to check in the video to find out what happened to the bag.

Will You Get Reimbursed For Stolen Items?


It depends on the item.

How much compensation you’re entitled to depends on the item and the airline’s policy.

Most airlines claim that they are not liable for the loss or damage of any expensive and valuable items in checked baggage.

Airlines or the TSA will not compensate for a $2000 watch for instance.

And even if you file a claim with the TSA or with the airline, it will be a daunting process, and it may even take up to six months to fully investigate your claim and get a response.

Here are some of the items that most airlines will not reimburse and you need to be careful when taking them in checked baggage:

  • Watches
  • Electronics (Phones, Drones, Cameras and other photographic equipment)
  • Jewelry
  • Money, gift cards and gift certificates
  • Expensive perfumes
  • Computer hardware and software
  • Medicines and medical equipment
  • Keys
  • Antiques, artefacts and heirlooms
  • Chinaware, glass, ceramics and pottery
  • Antlers
  • Art tables
  • Backpacks not designed for travel
  • Business equipment and samples
  • Collectibles
  • Glasses, Eyewear and other vision devices
  • Flowers and plants
  • Garment bags not designed for travel
  • Musical instruments
  • Natural fur products
  • Perishable items
  • Precious metals and stones
  • Silverware, knives and swords
  • Sleeping bags and knapsacks

How to Prevent Theft From Checked Luggage

1. Carry On Luggage Instead Of Checked Baggage

In this digital age the best way to prevent theft of your precious items and keep them safe is to travel carry-on only.

That way you can keep all your belongings untouched, additionally there are plenty of advantages when traveling light. The travel fashion girl mentioned a plethora of them in this post.

2. Keep Your Valuables with You

In case you need to take a checked bag do not place any valuable and expensive items in it.

And If your carry-on bag is gate checked at the airport, you can still remove any items from your bag and take them with you on your personal item.

You can also eliminate and leave any unnecessary items in our home, sometimes we end up traveling with valuable items we don’t even need.

3. Lock Your Baggage

Being prepared with the right high-security lock will assure that your bag is safe, secure and will not be opened by a random stranger, but you will need to consider a TSA friendly lock.

The airport officers may need to open your bag to know what is inside, if they can’t identify some of the content of the bag.

So using a TSA friendly lock which uses a global security system is crucial.

If you don’t use a TSA lock you will run the risk of having the lock broken off with the security officers.

If you don’t have a TSA lock, or you don’t want to use a lock in general you can utilize a zip tie, that way you won’t risk an expensive lock in case the security officers wanted to open the bag.

4. Take a Photo of Your Luggage and Its Contents

Before you lock your bag and hand it to the airline, snap a quick photo of both inside and outside the bag.

This photo can be a life-saver because you can have it as evidence and show it to the airport authorities in case an item is missed or the lock gets damaged.

You can always hide an Air tag inside your bag, you’ll be able to detect your bag location easily even when the airline cannot.


Final Thoughts

In theory, something like this should not happen, but it’s worth always taking precautions.

Luggage theft is not a common thing, and it doesn’t happen to every traveler, even though it may happen often.

And with just simple steps you can avoid the possibility of missing items inside your checked baggage.

Take any expensive item with you onboard, and use a good lock for your checked bag, and in case you suspect that your bag is opened, ensure that you double-check if everything inside is intact and nothing is missing before you leave the airport.

Happy travels

We hope this helps

people also ask: