Kokua Line

June Watanabe

Traveler’s phones
missing from luggage

Question: I checked in two pieces of luggage unlocked, as recommended, when I flew interisland on Hawaiian Airlines. Three new phones that were packed were missing when I got home. I put in a claim with Hawaiian, but they denied it for various reasons, including a specific tariff that says that the airlines are not responsible for electronic items. I also contacted the Transportation Security Administration. If we're to leave our luggage unlocked, then who is supposed to be accountable for missing items? I did not receive a sticker or anything indicating my bags were searched. What kind of security measures are there to make sure our possessions are safe?

Answer: The TSA had to deal recently with four screeners at two New York airports being charged with stealing from passengers' luggage.

But the TSA does have measures to try to protect both employees and passengers, said Nico Melendez, the Pacific Region spokesman based in Los Angeles.

At least one supervisor and one inspector, and often a third person, is to be present during the screening process, he said.

Any time a bag is screened, there will be a note to indicate a search. Once a search is done, you are allowed to lock your bag, because screening is done only once, Melendez said.

Meanwhile, Hawaiian Airlines' employees are not supposed to search bags, said spokesman Keoni Wagner.

"There are two areas at the airport where we screen bags," Melendez explained. "One is in the lobby, where it is in full view of the public and passengers are more than welcome to watch their bags being screened. We also have a screening operation that is outside the view of the public, but every passenger has the opportunity to stand and watch their bags being screened in that area as well."

In other words, a bag would not be screened without the owner's knowledge, he said.

He also said TSA is in the process of trying to get closed-circuit television cameras at checkpoints in more airports nationwide, because "we find it necessary to not only protect passengers and passengers' belongings, but to protect our screeners from false claims."

If you feel the TSA was responsible for your loss, Melendez said you should have filed a claim with the agency.

But, he said the TSA has possession of a checked bag less than 5 percent of the time it is out of the possession of a passenger: "As soon as it leaves our hands, there is nothing that we can do about it."

Wagner says Hawaiian "does provide security in its baggage areas" and works closely with TSA and other law enforcement agencies "to keep its customers' belongings secure."

He also said the airline ranks No. 1 in the industry for baggage handling, with "the lowest incidence of baggage irregularities ... loss, damage, pilferage, according to the Department of Transportation."

Both spokesmen advised passengers that if they have anything of value, to carry it with them.

"That is the most effective form of security in protecting their goods," Melendez said.


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