Protect Your Valuables During Holiday Travel

Baggage handlers caught on tape rifling through and stealing from checked bags.

ByABC News via via logo

Nov. 14, 2007 — -- A record number of people will be flying this holiday season — 27 million Americans are expected to travel by air over Thanksgiving.

Airlines have to staff up during the holidays to handle all the extra passengers and luggage. With many people transporting gifts for loved ones through the skies, travelers are wise to take extra precautions to prevent lost or stolen luggage.

Phoenix police and ABC affiliate KNXV recently caught a baggage handler at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport stealing items from a traveler's checked baggage.

A surveillance video from last year shows him rummaging through bag after bag as he loads them on the plane, packing loot into his pockets as he goes.

Grant Estabrook, who had a new iPod Nano stolen from a checked suitcase in Phoenix, says he keeps his valuables inside his carry-on bag now.

"I put [the iPod] in between my clothes thinking it's a good place to hide it," Estabrook said. "Just be careful of what you put into your bag."

The employee caught on tape in Phoenix was fired after a sting operation.

Servisair, which employed that baggage handler for the Phoenix airport, said in a statement to "Good Morning America": "Hidden cameras uncovered two employees removing items from the holds of two aircraft and placing them in their backpacks. The two employees were promptly arrested, charged and immediately terminated."

Estabrook got his iPod back, but only after fighting for it in court with the help of local police.

"We're the only ones that are actually going to be able to investigate it and try to recover their property," said Lt. Rick Gehlbach of the Phoenix Police Department.

In Phoenix, items reported stolen include sunglasses, a gold pendant watch, earrings and a digital camera.

"Anything you don't want lost, don't put it in your checked bag. This is just the way you should be packing," said Amy Ziff, editor at large of Travelocity.

Tiff said there are a few precautions you can take when traveling, especially during the holiday season.

Use a Transportation Safety Administration approved lock for your bags — either a Travel Sentry or a Safe Skies TSA Luggage Locks lock. If your baggage is inspected, only the TSA will remove the lock and then replace it.

Also, avoid packing wrapped presents. They are easy to spot and indicate obvious value.

And of course, take as much as you can in carry-on luggage.

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