Why won’t airlines cover stolen computers?

Here’s a question I get all the time: Why won’t an airline cover a lost or damaged computer in my checked luggage?

My answer is always the same: because!

Well, it’s been that way since the Wright Brothers flew a kite at Kitty Hawk. Every airline contract specifically says it doesn’t cover lost or stolen electronics, among other things.

But when a friend asked me for help with a computer claim on United Airlines, I couldn’t say “no.” First, he’s an elite-level customer, the kind airlines like United often make exceptions for. Second, his bag was obviously pilfered either by a United employee or a TSA agent, he says, because his laptop never made it from California to New York.

And third – well, I’ve been repeating “because” for so long, that I had begun to wonder: why is this?

The Transportation Department, which regulates airlines in the United States, “does not prohibit” carriers from declining to pay compensation for a computer that’s lost, damaged or stolen when carried in checked baggage domestically, according to a department spokesman.

“Airlines have pointed to fraudulent claims by consumers for loss of electronics and other expensive items as the reason they exclude these from compensation,” he told me.

An airline doesn’t have that luxury when operating an international flight. Under the Montreal Convention, it’s on the hook for a damaged or pilfered computer in your checked luggage. Domestic airlines tried to weasel out of that one until the DOT issued a stern warning (PDF) telling them that the Montreal Convention applied to them, too.

Curiously, this hasn’t led to a marked increase in fraudulent claims.

Of course, stolen electronics aren’t the only thing United Airlines exempts itself from.

Take a deep breath and read this, folks:

BAGGAGE LIABILITY For travel wholly between points in the U.S., United will not be liable for loss of money, jewelry, cameras, negotiable papers/securities, electronic/video/photographic equipment, heirlooms, antiques, artifacts, works of art, silverware, irreplaceable books/publications/manuscripts/business documents, precious metals and other similar valuable and commercial effects.

Whoa. That’s a lot of items.

It gets worse. United “prohibits” such items from being place in checked baggage on international trips – presumably to avoid paying for them under its Montreal Convention obligations.


But back to my case. Richard Laermer, who runs a communications firm in New York and rarely if ever checks bags, was flying back home from California on United when the MacBook Pro he’d tucked into his bag disappeared. (He packed it because he was already carrying another Mac and an iPad and his carry-on was beyond filled.)

“Someone — TSA or United, who knows — went into my bag and stole a separate neoprene holder with my computer in it,” he says.

When the luggage arrived on the carousel it was casually left open. (As for TSA, Laermer points out, there was no explanatory note placed in his baggage as they must do when screening chosen suitcases.)

When he asked the airline to pay for his loss, it told him it didn’t cover electronics. Even after a written appeal to a supervisor, the answer remained the same.

I thought this was unusual, given Laermer’s status and the circumstances of the PCs disappearance. So I asked United to take a second look at this computer case.

A representative called me and explained that even United’s very best customers – they’re called Global Services – don’t get a check for missing electronics in their checked luggage.

“Our response was appropriate,” she told me.

And besides, didn’t I know the rules?

Yeah, I do, I told her. I just don’t agree with them.

Laermer is talking with an attorney about his missing computer and has taken his business to Delta. United, meanwhile, is still looking for his lost luggage.

Me? I’m one of the tens of thousands of passengers who don’t trust an airline with my checked bags. Ever. You should be, too.

Also, I’m not sure why airlines can’t take responsibility for some of our valuables. After all, aren’t we paying them extra to transport our luggage?

(Photo: Yu Ta Lee/Flickr)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • y_p_w

    I think I understand why they have this disclaimer.  A lot of people can claim things were stolen without any proof that it ever existed.  There are people willing to fleece the airlines as much as there are airline employees and TSA crew ready to steal from the flying public.

    At the least, they might possibly accept some sort of liability if an item were declared, like perhaps a firearm, which can only be transported in checked baggage.  Of course if it’s declared, then who know if they might tip off a friend that there’s a bag coming along with some pretty nice goodies.

    Speaking of firearms, I’m wondering what would happen if a declared firearm in checked baggage were pilfered.  That might get interesting if airline employees or TSA start stealing guns.

    Speaking of theft, I always wondered why some people travel with such fancy luggage.  Doesn’t a $7000 Louis Vuitton bag sort of scream that there might be good stuff in said bag to steal?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HMW3OTJSBDWWRKIEKEKWWM7BEA bc

    It’s about time that airports make luggage screeners and TSA agents go through as much scrutiny as everyday fliers. Checks before and after they enter buildings to ensure that no items belonging to passengers go missing. Every retail store in a america has similar policies in their stores, employee’s bags are checked as they leave. How come something so simple couldn’t be done at an airport?

    It’s criminal.

  • Eric

    WOW! That’s a loophole big enough for a 747.  Going by the letter of that disclaimer, the airline isn’t responsible for anything, since “valuable” is a relative term.

    Maybe the solution is some sort of bonded luggage service which would verify the contents of your bag, in your presence, and then give you an itemized list of any valuables in the bag.  The process is repeated upon arrival and if the lists don’t match, the airline is on the hook for it.

    Another idea I had is a device which could be hidden in luggage.  It would work on a motion detector, which could be placed under a pair of pants or something. As soon as the bag is opened and the item covering the security device is lifted off, a camera would begin snapping photos every 5 seconds and send them to your cell phone or e-mail, so you would have a photo of who opened your bag.  Perhaps even catch a photo of a TSA agent holding the missing laptop they don’t know anything about.

  • Bob

    Haha…he’s “taken his business to Delta.” He is aware that Delta, like United, would also not cover his stolen computer, right?

  • Raven_Altosk

    I agree that the disclaimer is needed. Have you ever seen some of the things people trump up when making a lost bag claim? But I’m wondering how the OP knows the airline took it and not the TSA? 

    Also, kind of off topic, but I’m sure some of us will be braving the horrible crowds at the airports today. So, I offer this…oldie but goodie:

    “TSA Gangstaz”

    => NOT SAFE FOR WORK!!! <=

  • Bill

    The bags are supposed to be in a secure area and are entrusted to the airlines.  The airlines should therefore be responsible.
    Baggage employees, TSA agents, etc should be checked on the way in AND on the way out.  Video surveillance should be the norm.  When there is a stolen item, they should be able to track who took it and prosecute them.

  • sirwired

    But such liability doesn’t seem to bother UPS, USPS, FedEx, or any other common cargo carrier.  In fact, I’ll bet that if that very same bag was sent using the airline’s cargo desk, it’d be covered.  If I order a computer and it doesn’t arrive on my doorstep, it’s not a big deal to file a claim.  Sure, they need some sort of proof the item existed, but claims do get paid.

    Now, almost NOBODY (except USPS Registered Mail, which is super-secure) will cover monetary instruments or bullion, but those are minor, understandable exceptions.

  • Tom

    Airlines are also concerned that baggage handling techniques are too rough for delicate electronics. There are conveyor ramps, slides, bags are stacked, and handlers swing heavy bags onto the plane. Checked baggages just isn’t handled to the standard one might use for fine china or electronics. Most people are leery of putting a laptop in their kid’s backpack to school for the same reason.

    It reminds me of the upcoming movie, the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo. The movie is set in motion by the damaging of the title character’s computer. Most of the movie is a long revenge fantasy. In the non-fiction world, insurance would have paid for a damaged computer.

    That’s why smart people include valuable computers in their homeowners insurance policy. It’s easier than indulging a revenge fantasy.

  • BillC

    Whether or not you agree with the airline’s policy, it is quite clear. They don’t cover electronic in checked baggage. Ship valuable items via Fedex or UPS.  I hope your friend doesn’t spend too much on an attorney, it will probably cost way more than the computer is worth. 

  • LadySiren


    I used to work with one of the country’s largest baggage handling systems manufacturers and yep, the way the bags are handled ensured that I never put anything delicate or fragile in my suitcases.

  • Safetymom

    I always check my bags.  Too much trouble taking it through security, through the airport and struggling to find room on the plane. I never pack anything valuable in my luggage. Only once in years of travel did a bag get delayed.               

    If you can’t afford to lose it don’t put it in your suitcase.      

  • frostysnowman

    We’re not paying extra for the airlines to transport our bags.  We’re paying them extra per bag to make up for the deficits caused by their bad business models. 

    That being said, I unfortunately have to side with the airlines.  The policy says no reimbursements for stolen electronics, and I’m kind of happy to hear that there really seems to be NO exception to that rule.  I never put anything of value like that in my checked bags.  With a lap top, the potential damage the luggage handling could cause is an even bigger consideration that the idea of someone stealing it.

  • MarkieA

    Why are bullion or monetary instruments an understandable exception? These items can be identified and verified just as easily as anything else, moreso probably. If the airline is willing to ship $1 million worth of negotiable bonds, why aren’t they willing to guarantee delivery?

  • MarkieA

    The article reads as though the OP acknowledges that the thieves could be either United or TSA. He can opt out of providing United any more of his money; not so for TSA.

  • Ames

    I lost some souvenirs and clothes in a checked bag between Washington DC and Boston – after the bag had safely made it through several stops in Africa –  I retrieved it for customs in DC and it was fine – and called both United and the TSA.  The TSA’s comment – was their card in the bag? If not, they could not have been responsible.  So some one willing to break the law by stealing, won’t break the law about putting the card in the bag??  Since the bags are so vulnerable to handlers and TSA in transit, I wonder why there have not been more cases of people ADDING items to bags in route.  What could be a better drug or handgun transit route than adding it to a bag and having it retrieved by another handler at the other end?  Of course a bomb, would be so much simpler – no need to retrieve it. 

    I have been thinking more and more about traveling very light, just very small carry on, and buying clothes and toiletries when I arrive and UPS the stuff home later.  Using a shipping service for luggage has gotten more expensive since hotels found a new revenue source – a fee for accepting and holding packages.

  • sirwired

    Because the temptation of theft or insurance fraud is so much higher, they’d have to charge special insurance premiums and possibly go through the extra effort to verify (and protect) the contents.  The post office does this by setting up chain of custody protections for Registered Mail.  People get fired if Registered Mail gets lost.  This kind of protection isn’t feasible for most common carriers, unless arrangements beyond just dropping the stuff off at the cargo counter are made.

    BTW, I believe bearer bonds no longer exist.  They are a fun thing criminals like to steal in movies, but they are now just that, a convenient fiction.

  • Ging

    I voted no because you shouldn’t be checking electronics or any valuables at all.  Theft isn’t the only problem.  Accidents do happen and you should take steps to be avoid both.  There is a reason that insurance policies have riders for jewelry, electronics, antiques, etc.  They are high ticket items and the risk of loss (any kind of loss) is higher, so you pay extra for those riders.  Baggage goes through too many hands from the check-in point to the carousel and the finger pointing never stops.   I’m not a big airline fan, but why should any company shoulder the blame of a theft if they aren’t the only one with access to the goods?  In the accident department, I worked with someone a few years back who checked his company computer and then watched helplessly from the airplane window while his bag was dropped off the baggage cart and then run over by the next vehicle that was behind it.  Clothes and toiletries are replaceable but valuable items you keep near. 

  • http://www.pipdigital.com Nancy Dickinson

    Yes, the airlines should be responsible for stolen electronics but, and this has to be said, no matter what the circumstances, don’t check a bag with expensive electronics in it.  That’s asking for it to be stolen.

    YPW has the right idea as well.  Declaring it at the time of check, having it printed on the ticket or baggage claim ticket, would help rid the airlines of those trying to scam them.

  • http://www.ilearnlanguagesfree.com/ MikeB

    What they really need to do is crack down on the theft instead of turning a blind eye towards the problem or coming up with bandaid solutions. Install some cameras to monitor the situation.

  • Eric

    TSA agents are NOT allowed to have ANY personal bags with them in the security screening area.  This is due to rampant theft from bags. They denied lunchboxes, etc. so TSA agents couldn’t stash stolen loot in them.  But more needs to be done.  Video surveillance of anyplace where TSA or airline personnel come in contact with either checked or carry-on bags should be federally mandated.

    As an aside, I’ve never had anything stolen from a bag, and I hope I never do.  I won’t just file a claim and wait for the TSA to deny it.  I’ll find the screener who stole from me, and I’ll show up at his home.  And then he’ll have to deal with ME.

  • IGoEverywhere

    Most airlines provide for an additional declared value in luggage,ie insurance. If you are just buying normal insurance for the flight, you will also have some luggage coverage. My homeowners has luggage insurance included. There are many ways to protect luggage. Now….who would ever put something that valuable in a checked piece of luggage…..there are thieves out there!

  • Steve R

    That’s a great point. I watch the employees heaving bags onto the conveyor belt in the terminal and I think…this is how they treat our bags when they know we’re watching. What do they do with them when we can’t see them?

  • Tony A.

    The airline can make all the disclaimer it wants but it cannot violate the law – in this case for a trip WHOLY WITHIN THE USA, 14 CFR § 254.4 Carrier liability (quote):

    On any flight segment using large aircraft, or on any flight segment that is included on the same ticket as another flight segment that uses large aircraft, an air carrier shall not limit its liability for provable direct or consequential damages resulting from the disappearance of, damage to, or delay in delivery of a passenger’s personal property, including baggage, in its custody to an amount less than $3,300 for each passenger.

    Last year the Delta settled with the DOT (read Consent Order) for $100K because Delta “attempted to limit it’s liability” printed in it’s  Baggage Information brochure. See http://airconsumer.dot.gov/EO/eo_2010-10-23.pdf

    Please note that 14 CFR § 254.4 does *not* have a “fragility” weasel clause like the Montreal Convention has – However, the carrier is not liable if and to the extent that the damage resulted from the inherent defect, quality or vice of the baggage.

    The OP might need to take the airline to court to recover money.

  • L2y2

    Sorry, I voted “no.” It is widely known that expensive items are not safe in luggage. I NEVER put anything of value in my luggage. Have you ever looked out the window of an airplane and seen how your luggage is handled? It would be bad enough having to replace my clothing, let alone my laptop, camera, etc. Is this right? No, it’s not, it should not be that way. But, it is a fact and we have to live with it. When we moved from Maryland to Colorado 7 years ago, I bought two carry-on’s and put our coins and precious pictures in them and did not take my eyes off of them. If you put something valuable in your luggage, it is at your own risk… 

  • Grey83

    I have had something go missing in almost half my flights. Shoes, sweaters, and cologne for example. I never put anything important in a bag even though I use TSA locks on all my flights.

  • cjr001

    And yet, that still doesn’t stop TSA agents from stealing from passengers’ luggage.

  • Julie Northrop2009

    I would never ever dream of having my computer in a checked bag.  I make sure that if it’s medications, electronics, or anything of value I bring it as a carry on.  I’ve been very lucky, but I realize that not everyone is.

  • Michael K

    I don’t understand why every point where baggage is handled (especially by TSA) isn’t under video surveillance.

    Wouldn’t this make sense purely from a homeland security perspective?

    And as a secondary benefit, it would deter employees from theft and would make it more feasible to properly investigate situations like the OP reported here.

  • y_p_w

    Bearer bonds still exist.  US companies generally don’t issue them because companies that issue them no longer get to deduct the interest as they could for bonds registered with the purchasers’ names.  There are still some US corporate bearer bonds that haven’t matured yet, although sometimes the borrower avoids the interest by calling the bonds and paying back the principal.


    The US Treasury Dept used to issue bearer bonds and the last ones are starting to mature.  There are still foreign government and corporate bearer bonds.  I could imagine an agent picking up such bonds and transporting them by air.

    Here’s a US Treasury bearer bond from 1977 (matured in 2007) that was sold:


    It’s still has 10 coupons.  I think the purchaser could have legally cashed them in, although there might be some collectors’ value beyond that.

  • http://twitter.com/travelingiraffe Crissy

    Perhaps another way airlines could earn money is to allow you to insure your checked bag, like the post office.  then if you have to check pricey items you can get some coverage for it to make you feel better.  Just need to get rid of the fine print…

  • Tony A.

    Talk about “money laundering”. Why would FedEx and UPS want to be involved in shipping cash or currency at all? They don’t.

  • Tony A.

    There’s lojack for laptops.

  • Tony A.

    Good post. I suspect that so much baggage handling are done by *contract, outsourced* individuals with CRIMINAL records. How many airlines still do 100% baggage handling with their own employees (hopefully with decent pays)?

    The reason why theft is so low in FedEx (Express Division) and UPS is that packages are handled almost 100% internally (by employees who have undergone security checks). IMO Most Passenger Airline Baggage handling is a joke compared to Fedex Package Handling.

  • Tony A.

    Why, is there are better way to design a belt sort and ramp  loading/off-loading system for 50-70 lbs. baggage? Most of these are already considered “heavy” weight packages by FedEx and UPS.

    But remember that OP’s problem is not a smashed or broken laptop. Someone STOLE (pilfered) his laptop. That’s a security problem, not a fragility issue.

  • David

    UPS and FedEx only cover them if you BOUGHT extra insurance.  Otherwise, their maximum liability is $100.00

    Don’t the airlines offer insurance?  I believe they do.  So why didn’t the OP pay for insurance on an expensive item? He didn’t buy insurance but wants insurance coverage.  Nice — I’d like stuff without paying for it too.  Isn’t this covered by a lot of homeowners policies?

  • sirwired

    Nope.  They won’t cover electronics, jewelery, etc. at all.  You can purchase excess value insurance (at VERY high rates… United wants 5% of the value over the limits), but such insurance won’t cover those items checked as baggage, no matter how much you are willing to pay.

  • RobynJacqueline

    I voted yes, because the way things are currently run, the airlines have no way to prove that there was or wasn’t anything of value in a guests checked luggage. When security cameras are set up in ALL areas that luggage is handled, then yes, they should be liable. Because if one of their staff or airport staff didn’t steal the item, they’ll have the video proof.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Don’t believe it. TSA says all kinds of crap that isn’t true – such as “we treat every passenger with dignity” and “we do background checks on all personnel”. And yet there are thousands upon thousands of reports of passengers treated horrifically at checkpoints by brutish, power-mad screeners, and no fewer than TEN TSA employees have been arrested for child pornography. http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/97986.html

    There have been dozens upon dozens of documented cases of TSA crimes, including TSA agents stealing cash and, yes, laptops from bags – http://www.wreg.com/news/wreg-tsa-german,0,6862534.story

    In fact, here’s a running list of all of the TSA’s crimes that have been reported in the media:  http://www.travelunderground.org/index.php?pages/tsa-abuse-master-lists/#BillFisher

    Nothing is safe in the TSA’s hands – not your belongings, not your body, not your dignity, and most of all – not your civil rights.

    I can understand why the airlines don’t want to be stuck with paying for the thievery of this out-of-control government agency that they are stuck with.

  • Clare

    This is some customer-service model, isn’t it: “we won’t reimburse when electronics are stolen by our employees, because you customers might be lying.”  Makes you want to run right out and do business with such a company, no?

  • Psbgsa

    The funny thing about this is him thinking Delta will do any better.

  • http://coronadogolfcourse.net/ Coronado Golf Course

    I agree completely! I would add undercover on the job detectives. The same way large department store do to curtail in store theft.

  • Dave

    I didn’t vote, because this isn’t a simple yes/no question.  Ideally, the airlines should be 100% responsible once you hand your bag over to them.  Even if their baggage handling is subcontracted, your contract is with the airline, not the subcontractor.

    On the other hand, the airlines have no more control over TSA than anyone else does (in other words, they have none — but that’s a separate rant).  And since by law the government trumps the airline, I don’t think the airline should be responsible for actions by TSA personnel.

    On the third hand, there truly are too many inflated claims of what is lost in luggage.  Countering that, though, is the airlines demanding unreasonable proof of what was lost.

    I don’t have a viable solution for this problem; luggage handling is one of the areas where airlines can stand to improve most, and this is only one small part of the overall issue.  Incidentally, the ban on coverage for these items has been in place since before I started flying, in 1967, so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone (somewhere in a box I have old timetables listing the policy — the only changes have been additional named examples).

  • y_p_w

    FedEx and UPS now have a very, very tight chain of custody.  With modern equipment, packages get scanned at every step along the way, and they’ll have a good idea exactly who was responsible for a particular package if it ever “disappears”. Many employees have been caught stealing because of the system.  I do think there are holes, especially if drop boxes are used or when boxes are left stacked at Kinkos until they get picked up.  That they have a system doesn’t mean that thefts don’t happen, but it’s a lot easier to catch than a package going through airlines and TSA that doesn’t get tracked except at checkin.

    Now the US Postal Service is another matter.

  • Scott

    Actually, no.  We are paying extra per bag because we are NOT paying extra for tickets in the last 30 years, thanks to deregulation, LCCs and internet ticket sales, where evidence shows that people will choose any carrier to save $5.

  • S E Tammela

    I would like to say yes, that airlines should take responsibility. If the luggage collection was like a cloak service, where you presented your token and an attendant went and fetched your bag from a secure area, you can bet your bottom dollar they’re responsible if something is stolen.

    However, I have never seen a luggage carousel that was secure. Any Joe Bloggs can grab your bag and take it away without being challenged. Unfortunately, that means the airline can’t be held responsible, even if it’s likely that in this case it was their fault.

  • http://gspirits.com/ Zod

    And this is what bothers me about paying for checked baggage. If you are paying a separate fee to transport your baggage, then the carrier should be beholden to the dray-age rights if something were to happen to your shipped baggage!

  • Ladycarols

    Your article doesn’t make sense. It says the bag didn’t arrive from CA to NY. Then it says the bag was open on the carousel. Then United is still looking for his luggage!

    Are tHey looking for a computer or luggage?

  • LeeAnneClark

    Putting TSA locks on your luggage actually makes the situation worse. It’s the TSA that’s stealing our stuff! And they can open the TSA locks. Putting a lock on the bag just tells the TSA thieves that there’s goodies in there that are worth stealing…an open invitation.

    It would be like putting new locks on your house, but then handing keys, marked with your address and the days you’ll be on vacation, directly to all of the convicted burglars in your city.

  • https://plus.google.com/115197896619361127605/posts Aaron W

    Given that they’re charging an extra fee for checking bags, it’s totally reasonable that they’re liable for the contents of those bags. 

    It’s also not unreasonable for the airlines to expect passengers to declare checked laptops or other electronics ahead of time (and have them visually verified by airline staff) to prevent fraudulent claims.

  • Guest


    What?  Why would they leave themselves open to this liability?  if you ran an airline you would have the exact same verbiage in the contract.  if you can’t carry on expensive items FedEx them to the destination with the proper insurance.  It’s simple.

  • y_p_w

    No it doesn’t.  Read carefully and pull out a dictionary if needed.  Chris wrote that “his bag was obviously pilfered”.  “Pilfered” means stolen in small amounts, which means that something smaller from inside the bag was taken.  A car can be pilfered.  A house can be pilfered.  That doesn’t mean said house was stolen, but rather the contents.

  • Schumidabest

    If these stupid airlines placed limits on bag size in the cabins, that seems to imply that one should not travel with anything of any value even if it means you’ll be wearing the same clothes for 10 days. It sounds like they refuse to take any responsibility for their clear negligence. And yes, TSA agents have been caught swiping stuff from bags too so they’re not totally innocent here.

  • Brad Ackerman

    FDX has complete control over who can access packages, so they can revoke the access of a thief and make sure it stays revoked. They even have their own sworn police officers.

    On the gripping hand, an airline passenger’s checked baggage can be accessed by the TSA and airport staff. While UA may — eventually — be able to get a thieving TSA employee fired, good luck if the crook is a Chicago Department of Aviation employee who happens to be an alderman’s drinking buddy. (Is the Emanuel administration better than Daley? If the mayor’s name is still plastered on every vertical surface at ORD and MDW, the answer is no.)

    If you want insurance for your laptop, your best option is to purchase a computer policy, such as the ones Safeware offers — I wouldn’t call it cheap, but it does cover accidental damage as well as loss/theft.

  • http://twitter.com/juandtres juandos

    Why shouldn’t airlines abuse the stupid people who voluntarily fly them?

    Look at all fees and other nonsense passengers whine about but accept anyway…

  • Guest

    Seems to me there’s a pretty simple way to help tackle this.  Bags are weighed as they are checked in, and that figure is printed on the baggage tag.  If there’s a discrepancy when it comes off, then it’s pretty easy to prove something was removed.

  • Sadie Cee

    The OP has my sympathy and I can appreciate his reasons for placing his laptop in his checked luggage.  Where our checked luggage is concerned, much depends on the honesty of the baggage handlers.  As I have said on this blog before, we can never protect ourselves from determined thieves.  All we can do is to try to outwit them.  Since I do not believe that the airlines are going to change their no-reimbursement policy soon, we have to do our best to protect ourselves.
    I am almost certain that for most of us the software/data are of greater importance to us than the hardware.  If we must check a computer, I suggest that a backup to an external HD be done and the HD placed in carry-on luggage.  For added insurance, prior to arriving at the airport important documents can be emailed to a computer at one’s home destination; burned to CDs and DVDs; or saved on handy USB drives. None of these would not use up much space in carry-on luggage.
    As for the hardware, it could be replaced if a claim on one’s homeowner’s insurance policy was successful.  However, standard policies (in my jurisdiction at least) do not cover computers that are used for business purposes.  An extra rider has to be purchased.
    Does the technology exist that would allow a sort of homing device to be programmed into the computer that the rightful owner could activate as soon as the computer “disappears and thus identify its location?”  Are such homing devices already available?

  • andrelot

    I think that, at least in major airports, a good solution could be having FedEx, UPS and DHL handle all luggage. Seriously, while they are not perfect, their record is so much better than that of passenger airlines.

    They could even set up different business for luggage dispatch and passenger check-in. 

  • Chasmosaur

    A firm “no” here.  As others have pointed out, the airlines have no control over TSA.  Not to mention airports like DCA where you have to drop your baggage off at the TSA checked-luggage screening point…which is right by a large entry door.  It annoys my husband, but the rare times we have to check bags (we’re both pretty experienced fliers), I won’t leave until I see my baggage has at least progressed through the pile and isn’t at a place where someone could just walk in, grab the bag and stroll away.  Elite status has nothing at all to do with this – there’s too many people who have access to your bags these days.

    Valuables never, ever go into checked luggage – that’s common sense that long predates TSA interference.  Even with honest handling, your bag is prone to rough handling and occasional breakage.  If I am carrying anything on that list above, it would never occur to me to leave it to the not-so-tender mercies of airline luggage handling.  If I ended up with an over-stuffed carry-on, then any clothes I carry would be the first thing to go into the checked luggage.  A change of clothes is easier to replace than my laptop.

  • Carrie

    I don’t blame airlines for not covering this type of thing.  It’s similar to how it is illegal to mail cash through the USPS.  It’s not illegal because USPS cares if you mail cash, it’s illegal so that they don’t have to be on the hook for it if someone steals it because you can’t trace cash AND you can’t prove the cash was there .  I would *never* pack something so valuable inside my checked luggage.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7JRPERPML6PGEK75ABURVVROJM Shukhrat

    In airports it is not an airline that sorts out your bags, it is a sorting companies who does that and airline has a limited choice – usually upto 3 sorting companies per airport, so it is not an airline employees who sorts out your checked bags, it is TSA and then sorting companies. Just to underline that it is not an airline company.

  • Patrick

    Common law says the airline has taken control over the items in checked luggage the minute the agent tags it and moves it to conveyor belts.  I cannot imagine how the airline can put that disclaimer in and not get sued.  Think of it this way.  Go to a swanky pub, check you hat and mink coat with the hat check girl. The items disappear.  The hat check girl as a agent for the pub is responsible for the items and so is the pub.  Surprizing more people don’t sue the engines off the airlines.

  • Sameer Sitaram

    Of course i never thought i’d write on this forum. Missing my Macbook Air from checked in luggage United Calgary – SFO. United says they won’t cover it. Is there any video surveillance of checked in luggage? I need my computer back.

  • Stavros

    Regarding the random screening of checked luggages from TSA and the safety of our items. In one instance after a trip to Europe, I found the note from TSA in an inside pocket of my agenda, placed behind my wife’s picture!!! I understand checking for unsafe items, but it looked like the agent who checked my luggage went far and beyond the random check by going through personal items where phone numbers, addresses as well as personal and business notes were kept.

    Makes me wonder…