Confessions of an Airline Baggage Handler

Act 3: Former baggage handlers unload all the ugly truths behind damage, delay, and loss of luggage.
3:00 | 03/07/14

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:

{{nextVideo.title}}

{{nextVideo.description}}

Skip to this video now

Now Playing:

{{currentVideo.title}}

More information on this video
Enhanced full screen
Explore related content
Comments
Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for Confessions of an Airline Baggage Handler
? ? At the airport, as soon as you check in your bags, somebody else may be checking them out the the baggage handlers. Just today, five were arrested at JFK in New York for using mail bags as grab bags, stealing from them. What else goes on when that baggage carousel starts moving? Here's Deborah Roberts. Reporter: When traveling Meaghan Mccord wants what we all want, for her bags to arrive safely. So last October, the Atlanta jewelry designer thought nothing of packing $6,000 worth of baubles, then boarding a flight to New York City to meet clients. Were you nervous about the idea of checking your bag with jewelry in it? I just sort of thought, "Oh, it will be okay. Can't carry all this heavy stuff because it's heavy." Reporter: At the baggage carrousel, anxiety. Waiting, waiting, waiting, and then this bag never showed. Reporter: Meaghan was flabbergasted, but not this guy. What is one of the biggest misconceptions that we have about how our bags are handled? That we care. Reporter: For 13 years William Henry has worked as a so-called rampie. In his book, "The american-made baggage handler" he unloads the secrets of his profession. You should assume that this bag is going to be handled in the worst way. Reporter: This rampie likes the push-over technique. Now, I see a lot these folks have been standing here for quite awhile. What's going on back there? They're in no rush. As they deliver the bags to the claim, these bags can fall out of the cart onto the ground. Reporter: Turbulence on the tarmac. Bags rolling down like tumbleweeds. In reality, though, more than 99% of checked luggage arrives unscathed, but last December alone, there were nearly 224,000 reports of mishandled bags in the U.S. That includes damage, delay, loss and theft. You have hundreds and hundreds of bags, and you kind of become numb to the process. Reporter: Tim cigelske was a rampie for two years. What was your most egregious mistake? Our crew loaded the wrong bags in the wrong plane. The engines are going, flights are coming in at different times, so there's confusion and things can go wrong. Reporter: That sounds as familiar as the fasten your seat belt sign to globetrotting lawyer Aaron hurvitz, who always travels with this fire-engine red duffle bag. Who'd misplace this? I don't know how you can get more bright than this. Reporter: Yet, like a jilted lover, he's been left standing at the carousel four times this past year, waiting for that bag. It's just pure frustration. You just throw your hands up and say, "Great, here we go again." Reporter: And guess what, Aaron? Pretty much a bag is a bag is a bag. Reporter: Think life is better in the front of the plane? Think again. Is the first-class bag going to be handled a little better by the baggage handlers? No, no. Just because we see that tag on that bag that doesn't mean it's going to get any priority. Reporter: In fact, that first class priority tag might even make your suitcase more attractive to a sticky-fingered handler. How does a baggage handler look into a bag? Because I imagine there are cameras all around the airport. They find places that are not monitored. Reporter: Like these guys caught red-handed on hidden cameras in the belly of a plane at JFK airport. This one goes through a wallet and scores cash. This one snagged some new headphones. As long as they got that bag in area that's undisclosed, unmonitored, unsupervised, they can do what they want with that bag. Reporter: Meaghan knows that for sure. Her missing bag finally arrived to her Atlanta home 23 days later with an unwelcome surprise. Let's put some gloves on. Reporter: Why the rubber gloves? Just wait and see. Did you recognize any of these things? Well, these are my jeans. And they're turned inside out. Reporter: So somebody had worn these? Yeah, then I find shoes, two sizes too big. Reporter: So this isn't even your shoes? No, and then here comes the really gross part. And dirty panties. Reporter: Ugh, so you found someone else's underwear in your bag? Yes, pre-worn underwear. Reporter: Ew. And then comes the jewelry bag. So I open it up, and I was just devastated. Reporter: So they took all of your jewelry, except for these pieces? It felt violating. It's almost like a flea market out there. Reporter: Former NYPD detective frank Shea says, even your carry-on is not guaranteed a safe landing, if it gets hijacked as you head down the jetway. And that's where most of the thefts are occurring, from the boarding gate to the belly of the plane. If one of the ground personnel says your carry-on luggage has to go underneath because the luggage bins are full, take the couple of minutes and take out the valuables that are in that bag. Reporter: So what's a weary traveler to do to brace your beloved bag for impact? First, buy a four-wheeler, When we load a plane, if it doesn't have the wheels, they'll throw it, kick it, toss it. With four wheels they can just roll the bag. Reporter: Next, find a bag as strong as a tank. What is this made of? This is the same material the NFL uses for their shoulder pads and formula 1 uses for their racing cars. Reporter: And as secure as fort Knox. Luggage that does not have zippers immediately gives people who steal luggage less options. Reporter: And believe it or never check in too early. If you do it more than two hours early, they don't even have things set up for your flight yet. Reporter: Aaron hurvitz realized that was his fatal error. I've checked the bag ahead of time and that's really where I run into trouble. Reporter: So he now leaves no time for his bag to get tossed and lost. I think the real sweet spot to check your bag is anywhere between 45 minutes to 90 minutes before the flight. Reporter: And, if you're really paranoid about keeping track of your bag, technology to the rescue. For $90 bucks you can get a tracking device like trakdot. I packed it in my bag on a recent trip to L.A., and just after landing, ta-da! I got an alert on my phone. My suitcase was in L.A., too! Ah, the joys of reuniting with your bag. Next -- lights, cameras --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"id":22829357,"title":"Confessions of an Airline Baggage Handler","duration":"3:00","description":"Act 3: Former baggage handlers unload all the ugly truths behind damage, delay, and loss of luggage.","section":"2020","mediaType":"Default"}