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Protect your luggage by requesting a cargo bag

I once sat on the tarmac in Puerto Rico in a torrential downpour, waiting to deplane from my connecting flight. From my seat, I could view the couriers grabbing our luggage, and my bag sat atop the rest, its outer layer absorbing the rain like a sponge.

If only I had taken our readers’ suggestion to request a cargo bag for my luggage when checking my suitcase! A clear plastic cargo bag, available free from most desk agents, serves multiple purposes:

  • It adds an extra layer of protection (especially from the elements).
  • It may discourage theft, as handlers would have to cut through the plastic to access the bag’s contents.
  • It makes a bag stand out on the baggage carousel.

According to Anne Davis of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), there are no regulations barring you from using a clear plastic cargo bag to cover your luggage—just note that if your suitcase needs to be inspected, the bag may become damaged in the process. It may also take a beating from the conveyor belts used to move your luggage from point to point.

You may find cargo bags more readily available with international carriers, and some domestic airlines may not offer them at all. AirTran, for example, does not offer cargo bags to passengers. In this case, it never hurts to ask at check-in.

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