15 Tips to Prevent Theft Aboard Airplanes and in Hotels

China Eastern Airlines economy class cabin

Theft of the property of travelers while aboard airplanes and staying in hotel rooms have been increasing, if recent reports are any indication — but although no method is foolproof, there are ways in which you can help to mitigate yourself from becoming a target for thieves.

Prevent Theft Aboard Airplanes and in Hotels

Here are five ways in which you can prevent yourself from being the target of a thief both aboard airplanes and in hotel and resort properties:

  1. Do not dress for success — rather, be as inconspicuous as possible. Wear jeans and a T-shirt when checking in to the hotel; or nice jeans and a polo shirt if you are conscious about your appearance. There is no need to appear slovenly and unkempt; but try not to stand out, either. Whether the duration of the flight is short or long, be as comfortable as possible with how you are dressed. Ensure that your belongings do not look valuable — for example, using a duffel bag implies that you are not carrying anything valuable.
  2. Always be as alert and as aware of your surroundings as possible — starting from when you leave your home until you return home. Especially be aware of your immediate surroundings once in your seat aboard the aircraft. Never say your name out loud at the front desk when checking in for your hotel stay; and — despite protests by some frequent travelers — be prepared to show your official identification when checking in to avoid audibly revealing any personal information which other people will be able to hear.
  3. Pack light, as the fewer items you carry with you when you travel, the less about which you have to be concerned pertaining to your personal belongings — and your chances of being the target of a thief will most likely be lower as well. Carrying fewer items means easier to carry and store them — whether aboard an airplane or inside of a hotel or resort property.
  4. To help prevent someone from taking something out of your bag, place your more valuable items deeper inside of the bag so that they are more difficult to access. Placing them zippered pockets located inside of the bag is a bonus for slightly greater security.
  5. If you can, separate your valuables — such as cash or jewelry — and do not keep them consolidated in one place. This way, if anything is stolen, the chances of all of your valuable items being stoled are decreased. Better yet, never carry any item which you cannot bear to lose — rather, leave it secured at home.

Prevent Theft Aboard Airplanes

“But traditionally airline cabins have offered refuge from thieves. After all, passengers are logged and named and hand luggage is rarely more than a few metres away from its owner under the watchful eyes of other passengers and a professional crew”, according to this article written by J.C.C. for The Economist, which deals with items in the cabin with you aboard an airplane and not checked items, as authorities are reportedly repeatedly warning that passengers are being targeted by professional criminal gangs. “Spare a thought then for a Turkish businessman who had HK$2m ($260,000) in cash and luxury goods stolen on a recent flight to Hong Kong, the largest reported pilferage of its kind to date. The haul comprised $200,000 in cash along with two luxury watches, highlighting a growing number of inflight thefts taking place, especially it seems, to and from greater China.”

The number of robberies in airplane cabins has increased by 25 percent in 2015 — with 60 reported incidents — as recorded by the police in Hong Kong. “Gangs are now thought to have identified targets before even boarding”, according to the aforementioned article. “Calls for greater vigilance are also perhaps unfair. Passengers are required to put bags in overhead lockers, sometimes rows away. On long-haul flights sleep is often a necessity and few can be vigilant the entire time. One solution might be to ask flight attendants to stow precious items in a safe place but this will become unworkable if every passenger wants that. On the other hand perhaps more vigilance is required, especially in this case. Not many people would dream of letting $260,000 worth of valuables out of their sight.”

A number of incidents involving theft having been reported over the last year, according to this article written by a writer known only as Ellen for Corporate Travel Safety.

In addition to the aforementioned advice, here are four ways you can prevent theft aboard airplanes:

  1. Although not always possible, try to keep your belongings as close to you as possible — such as in the overhead storage bin directly over your row; or for better visibility but without irking the occupants underneath it, in the overhead storage bin over the row across the aisle from where you are seated for improved visibility. Better yet, keep them under the seat in front of you if the space is accommodating enough, where you will be able to best keep an eye on your belongings — but possibly at the cost of leg room and increased comfort.
  2. Place your most valuable items — such as a wallet or passport — in the front pocket of your pants or in your purse in front of you instead of storing them in your carry-on bag or in a garment being hung in a closet away from your seat and out of your view. Do not leave them on your seat while using the lavatory, as that is practically asking for someone to steal them.
  3. Keep access to the inside of your baggage as difficult as possible for a potential thief. For example, place access to your bag either on the bottom or behind the bag when it is stored in an overhead storage bin and not out in front. Having that access readily available to you during a flight may indeed be more convenient for you — but it also means that access is easier for anyone else as well. If your bag is equipped with a lock, even better: lock your bag — especially when heading to the lavatory or another part of the airplane.
  4. Window seats offer slightly more security than aisle seats, as stealing items stowed under an aisle seat is easier because it is more readily accessible than under the seat by a window.

Prevent Theft in Hotels

A hidden investigation recently conducted by producers of Good Morning America — a television program aired by the American Broadcasting Network — uncovers how two thefts can be brazenly successful despite otherwise normal conditions at hotel properties in an experiment accompanied by a person who is knowledgeable pertaining to safety and security. Video of the hidden investigation is included in the report.

In addition to the aforementioned advice, here are six ways you can prevent theft in hotels — four of which were originally offered by the original article but modified by me:

  1. At the front desk while checking into the hotel, do not mention your room number loud enough for someone else to hear at any time, as you never know who may be a potential thief who might want to break into your room.
  2. Whenever you are in your room, always keep the additional lock engaged at all times. At the very least, this will prevent mistaken entry by a fellow hotel guest who might have been given the wrong key by the front desk; and at best, you help to prevent a crime from occurring.
  3. If you lose the key — typically a plastic card with a magnetic strip — to your hotel room and need another one, ensure that the first set of keys are disabled when you receive a replacement set of keys. Using a method of digital key using your portable electronic device can be a way of bypassing this issue.
  4. When you do leave your room, always give the impression as though the room is occupied by leaving the television and lights on to give the appearance that someone is in your room. If you happen to be in a room which requires a plastic key card to be inserted into a slot near the door in order for certain electrical functions — such as lights and climate control — to operate, request a spare key.
  5. Before you go to a hotel, check about what is their liability regarding personal property loss in the state in which the hotel is located. If it is possible, do not travel with valuable jewelry or lots of cash with the real possibility that you may have little or no recourse if your valuable property is lost or stolen — leaving it locked at home is your best bet.
  6. Store your property of reasonable value in places in your room where either a thief would not initially think of searching; or stack items. You can also consider storing items deep in your bag. People have also been known to store items in the tank of the toilet in the bathroom of the room.

Prevent Theft Aboard Airplanes

“But traditionally airline cabins have offered refuge from thieves. After all, passengers are logged and named and hand luggage is rarely more than a few metres away from its owner under the watchful eyes of other passengers and a professional crew”, according to this article written by J.C.C. for The Economist, which deals with items in the cabin with you aboard an airplane and not checked items, as authorities are reportedly repeatedly warning that passengers are being targeted by professional criminal gangs. “Spare a thought then for a Turkish businessman who had HK$2m ($260,000) in cash and luxury goods stolen on a recent flight to Hong Kong, the largest reported pilferage of its kind to date. The haul comprised $200,000 in cash along with two luxury watches, highlighting a growing number of inflight thefts taking place, especially it seems, to and from greater China.”

The number of robberies in airplane cabins has increased by 25 percent in 2015 — with 60 reported incidents — as recorded by the police in Hong Kong. “Gangs are now thought to have identified targets before even boarding”, according to the aforementioned article. “Calls for greater vigilance are also perhaps unfair. Passengers are required to put bags in overhead lockers, sometimes rows away. On long-haul flights sleep is often a necessity and few can be vigilant the entire time. One solution might be to ask flight attendants to stow precious items in a safe place but this will become unworkable if every passenger wants that. On the other hand perhaps more vigilance is required, especially in this case. Not many people would dream of letting $260,000 worth of valuables out of their sight.”

A number of incidents involving theft having been reported over the last year, according to this article written by a writer known only as Ellen for Corporate Travel Safety.

In addition to the aforementioned advice, here are four ways you can prevent theft aboard airplanes:

  1. Although not always possible, try to keep your belongings as close to you as possible — such as in the overhead storage bin directly over your row; or for better visibility but without irking the occupants underneath it, in the overhead storage bin over the row across the aisle from where you are seated for improved visibility. Better yet, keep them under the seat in front of you if the space is accommodating enough, where you will be able to best keep an eye on your belongings — but possibly at the cost of leg room and increased comfort.
  2. Place your most valuable items — such as a wallet or passport — in the front pocket of your pants or in your purse in front of you instead of storing them in your carry-on bag or in a garment being hung in a closet away from your seat and out of your view.
  3. Keep access to the inside of your baggage as difficult as possible for a potential thief. For example, place access to your bag either on the bottom or behind the bag when it is stored in an overhead storage bin and not out in front. Having that access readily available to you during a flight may indeed be more convenient for you — but it also means that access is easier for anyone else as well. If your bag is equipped with a lock, even better: lock your bag — especially when heading to the lavatory or another part of the airplane.
  4. Window seats offer slightly more security than aisle seats, as stealing items stowed under an aisle seat is easier because it is more readily accessible than under the seat by a window.

Summary

Keep in mind that this article is only for better securing your items either aboard an airplane or in a hotel or resort property, as preventing theft from checked baggage or at an airport security checkpoint are not addressed in this article.

None of the items of advice offered in this article are foolproof in and of themselves. In fact, many of them should seem like common sense about which you may already know…

…but employing a combination of the items of advice can significantly increase the chances of ensuring that your items will not get stolen — or lost, for that matter.

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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