When suitcases are coming around the baggage carousel, passengers cram shoulder to shoulder, hoping to see their bags quickly and easily, so they can grab them and “get outta there.” To make the sighting a little easier, many of us strive to make our luggage stand out from the rest. That could mean buying bags that aren’t typical colors, putting pompoms or ribbons around the handles, or picking out a special luggage tag that matches your distinct personality (these are some of the funnier ones I’ve seen over the years).
Some people go the extra distance and put a luggage strap (or two) on their bags. Their reasoning could be multifold:
Having a luggage strap (or straps) on your suitcase will, once again, make it stand out from the other bags so it’s easy to identify at quick glance.
They’re more difficult to open
Assuming that someone is intent on going through bags to steal something from them, a luggage strap or two would theoretically slow them down for a split second. So maybe they’ll decide to ransack a bag that doesn’t have one or more luggage straps keeping it closed. Theoretically.
They’re insurance against failure of suitcase lock or zipper
If the zipper or lock on a passenger’s bag suddenly broke, some might like to think that their luggage strap would keep their bag from bursting open and everyone seeing their dirty underwear. Again, theoretically.
So yes, luggage straps do have their place. Definitely, as a way to differentiate your bag from all the rest (the other two? Well, as the good blog says, Your Mileage May Vary). But one place they shouldn’t be? On your checked bag.
You’re probably saying to yourself, “What kind of BS is this? I’ve put luggage straps on my checked bags for years.” Which is fine, but technically (there’s that “technically” again), you shouldn’t put luggage straps on checked luggage.
Just like those popular bags that were recently banned by another airline, luggage straps can get snagged on the rollers and other machinery “behind the scenes.” Before anyone can rescue the bag from the equipment, it’ll wind up getting banged up by the bajillion other bags that are now stuck behind it.
So the suitcase in question has a luggage strap that’s stuck on some piece of automated equipment, thereby holding it in place, along with bags pushing on it from behind. That’s a whole lot of pressure. So if the strap doesn’t break on its own (some luggage straps are made better than others; a cheaply made one could just snap apart), a baggage handler will have to go and cut the strap to relieve the pressure on the mechanisms, and let your luggage, as well as the now-backlog of other bags, continue on their way.
Why do the airline agents let them through?
They’re not supposed to.
But sometimes the agents at the counter aren’t the cream of the crop. Maybe they’re new and haven’t gotten used to all the rules yet. Maybe they’re too lazy to say something. Maybe they don’t want to risk being chewed out because, “this luggage strap has been in my family for generations and it always gets put on our luggage. Always! Don’t you DARE tell me I can’t use it – I pay your salary!” Maybe they’re contract workers who just don’t give a crap.
But if you’re lucky, you’ll check in with an agent who knows their stuff and will ask you to remove the luggage strap from your bag and either pack it inside the bag, or for you to take with you.
What about carry-on bags?
Carry-on bags are fine; they aren’t going to get caught in machinery. But your carry-on bag is also most likely going to stay with you. So you don’t need to worry about finding it, a thief opening it, etc.
But for checked bags, consider something else. Pompoms. Ribbons. Luggage tags. Maybe even a brightly colored handle wrap. But a luggage strap? Not recommended. Maybe just leave it at home.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary