I thought this may interest a few people as there has been a lot of discussio on TA on baggage theft. I saw this letter today in our local Jhb newspaper in the travel section. It's from Solomon Makgale, Communications Manager at ACSA (Airports Co of SA). It's a bit long, but there's no point in editing it otherwise the points he's making will be lost. (Luckily I'm a PA and can type fast!)
"Several letters have been published in Travel regarding baggage theft at airports. We would like to clarify the different areas of responsibility and provide some detail in respect of efforts by ACSA to effectively manage baggage security.
Once a customer checks in, the airline takes custody of the passenger's bag, meaning that the airline is responsible for ensuring that the bag gets back to the passenger in the same condition it was handed in. Therefore, if the bag is lost or pilfered, the passenger can lodge a claim against the airline they flew with. As this is the norm worldwide, airlines sub-contract this role to baggage handling companies, but this does not absolve them of their responsibility. Airlines should guide passengers through the claims procedure.
This should not be read as ACSA "naming and shaming" or pointing fingers. Baggage pilfering is an issue that has been identified by ACSA and our stakeholders as a major concern. ACSA, SA Police Services (SAPS), airlines and baggage handlers all have an important role to play to ensure that baggage is secured.
Regular crime blitz operations are undertaken and have been very successful. Personnel involved in this criminal activity are arrested or dismissed. Their work permits are then confiscated and blacklisted, meaning they will never work at the airport again.
At OR Tambo International, all airside staff now use a single gate entry and access. Security at the gate has been upgraded to include screening equipment. ACSA has an ablution facility at the gate that ensures that airside staff store personal items at the lock-up luggage facility and take nothing but required equipment into the baggage area. This will further control removal of items from the restricted baggage area. Within the baggage area, another screening area has been developed to ensure better access control measures. ACSA has also completed a new a new access control permit system that will "zone" access to certain areas of the airport by tight permit control. Only specific individuals requiring direct acccess will be able to access certain baggage areas, to control cross movement and criminal co-operation within the baggage sphere.
Furthermore, ACSA has appointed two new baggage handling companies. Menzies Avaiation, an international ground handling company and BidAir, a local company within the Bidvest group of companies. The new service providers, scheduled to start in April next year, have committed to improve baggage delivery standards. They will be subject to a stringent service level agreement, which includes on-time baggage delivery, reduction in baggage pilfering and supervision of bags. They will be required to perform background checks on the baggage handling staff they employ, train them appropriately and to not use casual labour.
ACSA has also embarked on a 10 point plan involving a number of initiatives with the airlines and the SAPS. Based on the statistics at our disposal, these compare with other airportes of similar size. ACSA will continue to work through and lend its support to the baggage pilfering committee".
Well, it all sounds good and it just remains to be seen if the new measures they are putting into place will be of effect. But at least the news is positive and shows that something is being done about it.