Road Warrior

Travelers pay to protect luggage with plastic wrap

Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC

Some air travelers might be more determined to fly only with carry-ons or add extra security to checked baggage after recent news of an alleged theft ring by workers at Los Angeles International Airport.

Others, however, may rely on plastic.

A worker wraps a passenger's suitcase in plastic as a security precaution.
Alexander Zemilanichenko Jr. | Bloomberg | Getty Images

For about $15 per bag, luggage wrapping companies such as Seal & Go, TruStar and Secure Wrap encase suitcases in multiple layers of Saran Wrap-like plastic.

"I do it every time I fly out of San Juan Airport," said Allisan Konrath, a customer service representative based in Chicago. "When I started years ago, too much luggage was being pilfered before flights."

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Wrapping stands are plentiful at many international airports but hard to find in the U.S. beyond the pre-security Secure Wrap stations in some terminals at Miami, JFK and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, which together wrap about 1.6 million pieces of luggage a year.

Major bust at LAX
Major bust at LAX

A wrapped suitcase might make a baggage handler think twice before rifling through your luggage. However, it won't stop the Transportation Security Administration from opening your bag if needed.

TSA screens all checked bags using Explosive Detection System machines. And while "the vast majority of bags screened by the EDS do not involve any physical inspection, bags that alarm may be opened and inspected before being reintroduced to the system," said TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein.

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In some U.S. airports, Secure Wrap employees rewrap bags that have been opened by the TSA.

"TSA does a great job of screening all luggage," said Daniel Valdespino, executive director of Secure Wrap. "But many customers worry about what happens next."

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Wrapping bags may offer some added security, but keep this in mind. "At some point, after all the wrapping and unwrapping and wrapping, that bag will be handled by a human again," said security expert Robert Siciliano. "And humans sometimes steal."

—By Harriet Baskas, special to Baskas is the author of seven books, including "Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can't or Won't Show You," and the Stuck at the Airport blog. Follow her on Twitter at @hbaskas. Follow Road Warrior at @CNBCtravel.