Connecting flights: When should we shrink wrap our baggage

Most of you have noticed the shrink wrapping machines situated at the check in areas of most major airports. These devices are there for a reason - people use them. Passengers shrink wrap their baggage for a number of reasons, in most cases related to safety.

When do you need to wrap your baggage?

In order to come up with an answer to this question, we will explore a few scenarios, related to the journey of our hold baggage.

There is one case, when wrapping baggage is necessary under all scenarios - Your luggage is luxurious and expensive. You have a brand new upper class samsonite or Liu Viuton suitcase, which is beautiful and shine, then spend a few dollars on wrapping in order to preserve it. Although loading staff uses gloves, generally they don’t tend to care about the exterior of your bag. Scratches are inevitable under any scenario, so if the exterior of your luggage is important to you, go for wrapping without hesitation.

Scenario 1: Direct flight to safe destination

In this scenario we board a direct flight on a safe route. There is no black and white definition for a safe route, but we can generally define it as a route we are accustomed to, such within Europe, US, Asia-Pacific, involving major airports, reputed airlines, etc. Under this scenario we expect good service without unpleasant surprises. We show up at check in, drop our bag. The check in agent puts in on the belt and shortly afterwards it arrives in the cargo section of the airport, where it is put in a metal container and then loaded in the aircraft, or manually put by a handling agent on truck and transported to the aircraft. Upon arrival, your bag is being unloaded and transported to the carousel within the arrival hall, where you pick it up. The unloading and offloading procedures tend to be quick, so if your bag is properly tagged, it usually doesn’t get lost on the way. There is big chance that big part of your bag’s route is covered by surveillance cameras.

Under this scenario, our recommendation is to save yourself the hassle of wrapping your suitcase.

Scenario 2: Direct flight to unsafe destination

Let’s say you are taking a direct flight to a destination generally considered unsafe (for e.g. Nigeria, Brazil, etc.). There is some risk that upon arrival, local staff may interfere with your belongings. If shrink wrapping is a feasible option at your departure airport, then go for it. You may apply the same rule even if you fly to an unknown destination, which you don’t actually know how safe it is, just to be on the safe side.

Scenario 3: Connecting flight via safe hub

In this case, your trip involves a stopover at a major hub (for e.g. London Heathrow, Frankfurt International, Doha Hamad Airport, etc.). These hubs process hundreds of thousands of transit bags per month, applying modern and fully automated logistic systems. Generally you should trust the handling process and check in your luggage “as is”. If your end destination is an unsafe destination, then yes, probably you should opt for shrink wrapping, as advised under scenario 2.

Scenario 4: Connecting flight(s) via unsafe hubsIn case your journey involves a stopover at a shady hub, or worse, your ticket involves a series of connecting flights, where your baggage is checked in all the way, then don’t hesitate to shrink wrap your luggage.

As a general rule, by shrink wrapping you achieve:

  • Keeping your luggage intact
  • Protect the exterior of your suitcases
  • Prevent thefts
  • Prevent the insertion of unwanted items
  • Easy recognition of baggage

There are some cases, where shrink wrapping may turn inconvenient. At some airports, authorities conduct random manual searches of checked bags. If you fly El Al Israeli Airlines, the chance is high. These searches are conducted under CCTV surveillance, but in any case, the inspectors would unwrap the bag.

Nevertheless, if you have fears concerning your baggage, if at your departure airport shrink wrapping service is accessible and cheap, then go for it. There is nothing more important than traveling in comfort.

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