Angry Agnes’s Baggage Blues

Last updated: November 19, 2012

How to avoid trouble from Indonesian baggage handlers, unlike a local celebrity.

Indonesian pop singer, Agnes Monica, recently slammed Indonesian baggage handlers for tampering with two pieces of her luggage, and losing a third.

Agnes Monica Tweets Her Anger
Agnes Monica Tweets Her Anger

TSA LockWriting on her Twitter account, Ms Monica claimed her luggage was fitted with special TSA locks (right); official baggage handlers have a special key to open these locks for proper inspection. However, upon arrival in Singapore, she discovered the locks on her baggage had been forced open.

While Ms Monica declined to name the airport involved, she said she flew Singapore Airlines (which only flies to Jakarta and Bali) and it is widely known she lives in Jakarta. Journalists soon deduced her rage was directed towards Jakarta Airport baggage handlers.

Regardless of your opinion of Agnes Monica and the incident, a pertinent question is relevant for all:

How can you avoid having a problem with your luggage?

Here are some hints and tips for checked baggage safety while flying in Indonesia:

  1. Don’t put any valuables in your luggage
    This might sound obvious, but putting expensive items in a suitcase is just asking for trouble. Hiding it under some clothes is not enough because baggage handlers have e.g. x-ray machines.

    Plastic wrap baggage machineIf you must check-in something valuable because it is e.g. too big, get the relevant case wrapped in plastic (right) so at least it cannot be accessed easily. This is relatively cheap in Indonesia, only Rp25 000 ($2.75 € 2,00 £1.60) per item.

  2. “Dress down” with your luggage
    While its nice to have the latest and greatest suitcases or backpacks, luggage that looks expensive or is super-sized is more likely to attract attention from the wrong crowd than average luggage in a bland colour. If you are concerned that someone else will be confused and collect your black suitcase, add a bright-coloured ribbon, nametag or string. Please note also that Indonesia is one of the few places where baggage tags (those little stickers on the back of your boarding passes) are checked against your luggage before you leave.

    Dressing down also applies to naming your luggage. Put your name on it inside and out, yes; but don’t put your address (especially home country), phone number and email address. Potential thieves may feel that foreign visitors are soft targets, can easily replace lost items because they’re rich, have travel insurance, etc. Alternative items on the nametag could be e.g. passport expiry date or driver’s licence number; these are still easily identifiable by you, but their significance is not so clear to others.

  3. Minimise the risks
    If you are transiting and have a long layover between flights, don’t get your bags checked through to the final destination; collect them at the transit airport and recheck them later. You may need to pay airport tax at the airport you are transiting, but this is a small price to pay for your peace of mind.

    Travel smart when packing: don’t bring anything from home that you have to check in and can’t live without; have travel insurance and check that the policy includes lost and damaged luggage; don’t put in your luggage items that together are worth more than you can claim in your travel insurance policy; don’t pack anything that you know might get you in trouble either in Indonesia or home country.

    Don’t dress like a millionaire; same like expensive luggage, it draws unnecessary and potentially unwanted attention to yourself. Better to wear clothes like you would on a normal day.

    Finally, don’t antagonise airline/airport staff or security guards; be polite, or they may have the last laugh, at your expense.

Please share below in a comment more hints and tips for checked baggage safety.

Or just “name and shame” which airports/airlines have given you trouble before. It would be helpful for visitors to know which have a good or bad reputation in this area.

4 Comments on “Angry Agnes’s Baggage Blues”

  1. Oigal says:

    Hi Chris,

    For mainly work reasons I would average about 40-50 flights a year, mostly domestic but some International. For what it is worth:

    1. Never pack critical or expensive items in cargo (why, take a shed-load of stuff anyway you can always buy cheap at the other end).

    2. Transit Bags will always be “molested” with Surabaya being the worst

    3. Don’t be an a*rse-hole and drag three extreme bags as cabin luggage (Yes, we all know you can in Indonesia but it still makes you an inconsiderate a*rse-hole)

    4. If you do drag three huge bags onto as Cabin luggage, rest assured if you drop into my overhead locker, I will unload it onto the floor for the cabin staff to sort.

    5. Don’t buy expensive locks, it just makes for more damage when the bag is raided

    6. No airline is better than another at protecting your bags

    7. If you are doing transit have some fun, pack with thought, pack your dirtiest underwear in the most expensive looking pack. Buy some wine, drink it and refill it with the liquid of choice (be nice, its only to humiliate the thief not hurt hurt him)

    8. Always use the bag boys to collect your bags. Your bags should have nothing of value anyway and trust me you don’t want to get into the frenzy that is Indonesians collecting bags. At 10,000Rp a bag, its a no brainer.

    9. The smaller airlines will always but always be late, the later in the day the later the plane. Plan for it and don’t stress. Have the ipad or such at the ready, take a kopi and relax. Some of the best nights I have ever had after a flight cancellation.

    The reality is that Indonesian air travel is generally much much nicer than traveling in any Western Country. Staff are always polite, smiling and well if not helpful at least eager to listen. If fact, it can be fun after the lass at the counter tells you the plane will be boarding sebentar (shortly), the fun bit is getting to her to explain just how many minutes is “Sebentar” . Remember, smile she has no more idea than you do and yelling at her is just being a bully.

    Relax, if the plane is late unlike the West you actually have a nice feed and coffee for a relative pittance. Some of the bigger airports (Jakarta, .Surabaya, Bali for instance) have foot and other appendage massage places…enjoy.

    Safety, as a resident in Indonesia one is always questioned by folks from the West. Is air travel safe? The obvious answer is about 10,000times safer than traveling by road.
    10 years, one skid off the runway and one fairly hairy landing so not so bad.

    What more can I say except I was due to go to Australia this week but canceled as the only flights available were QANTAS and its mongrel offspring Jetstar. Will go next month now with Garuda.

  2. Chris says:

    Personally, I have only had a problem with tampered luggage once, flying Garuda Indonesia from Surabaya to Melbourne via Denpasar.

    (The bags were checked through to Melbourne, so the dodgy baggage handlers may have been in Surabaya or Denpasar.)

    The tampered item was a newish small Polo suitcase, containing items for my then baby daughter. There was a small incision below the zip; you had to look closely to notice it and was easily fixed at the Servis Tas Sepatu.

    Perhaps the new-ness was what attracted the unwanted attention, because there was nothing valuable inside – just baby stuff. Nothing was missing.

    A bit off topic I know, but Lion Air did once break my daughter’s pram. That story is here.

  3. Oigal says:

    The one that creates issues for me on the odd occasion is the limit of amount of alcohol you can transport domestically.

    As we a have a number of friends who live in the far flung reaches, getting their favourite tipple can be a challenge, so we will purchase a carton 6 or 12 bottles whenever we head off into the jungle.

    More than once I have been nailed at security declaring there is a regulation you can only transport 6 (sometimes 5) bottles of alcohol and demanding their usual pay off. Not that it is a real issue see point seven above. You even get to have chuckle on the plane thinking about the idiot enjoying his bottle of graft alcohol.

    What I have never been able to find out for certain, is this a real regulation or just yet another filthy fingers scam in the country of the pious.

  4. Chris says:

    Hi Oigal,

    What I have never been able to find out for certain, is this a real regulation or just yet another filthy fingers scam in the country of the pious.

    Based on this guy’s experience, I’m guessing it is a tourist tax, not a regulation.

    Personally, the only thing I have had confiscated was a bottle of bug spray; apparently, deodorant aerosol bottles are cool but Baygon isn’t.

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