With thousands of South Africans preparing to embark on local and international travel this festive season, worries about how to keep their luggage and valuables safe during the trip won’t be far behind. But although this is a legitimate concern, the good news is twofold: Firstly, because of dramatically improved security, the vast majority of bags will rejoin their owners intact after the aircraft lands. Additionally, there are a number of steps travellers can take for further peace of mind. “The reputation of South African airports continues to improve following some years of criticism as a result of baggage theft and unprofessional ground services,” says Christian Faure, Vice President Commercial of Menzies Aviation, which is responsible for ground handling services of leading airlines locally and globally. “At the time, South African airports were notorious for baggage theft, baggage mishandling, poor on-time performance, poor safety and security and poor customer service. Some of this was as a result of outdated infrastructure or overcapacity, which was solved with ACSA’s 2010 World Cup building programme. However much of it was down to the poor management and discipline of previous licensees,” he says.
Faure says in the six years since Menzies entered the local market in 2008, there has been a complete mindset change in terms of instilling a zero-tolerance approach to safety, security, quality and discipline. In the wake of this sea change, Menzies OR Tambo was the first South African operation to be awarded the International Air Transport Association’s ISAGO quality accreditation, after passing an extensive and very stringent audit.
“Incidences of baggage mishandling and theft on airlines have become rare, as a result of ACSA’s investments in infrastructure and Menzies’ approach to staff recruitment and development.
And should incidents occur, they are investigated fully and in the majority of cases arrests made,” says Faure.
However he says passengers should be aware that different standards and processes across airports, baggage handlers and territories meant passengers should still do whatever they can to keep their valuables safe.
“Once you’ve checked in your luggage, it goes through quite a journey itself before boarding the aircraft. However the bags are monitored both electronically and manually at each stage of the process en route to-and-from the aircraft.”
Faure’s top five tips for ensuring your stuff returns home with you at the end of the journey are:

1) Make use of the baggage wrapping service. These services are readily available at most airports within South Africa. Some airlines, like SA Express, offer it as a value added service at no additional charge to the passenger.

2) Clearly label all your baggage, and customise your luggage so that it stands out. This will also help limit the accidental removal of your suitcase from the carousel by someone with similar-looking luggage. Lock your bags.

3) Keep valuable items with you. Cellular and electronic devices are the most vulnerable.

4) Check airline tags to ensure correct destination, and make sure of where your luggage will be when transiting. Get to the carousel as soon as possible after landing. When arriving in SA from an international destination, you will need to clear customs first before rechecking your bags to a further domestic destination.

5) If you have golf clubs, oversized or boxed items, these are normally delivered at a separate area for fragile goods near the carousels. Ensure you keep the tags for these items in a safe place and don’t forget to claim your items before leaving the airport.

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