Eli Orzessek answers your travel questions.

I have had a hip replacement and always set off the machine when checking hand luggage through. My husband always goes first and warns them and then he collects my hand luggage as well as his. I am always concerned at how easy it would be for someone to pick up my hand luggage while I am otherwise engaged. We are travelling to the US next year and my husband now has some screws in his back, so he will be setting off the machine as well. Any suggestions on how to manage luggage at the checkout?

This was something I started to become nervous about during my trip to Los Angeles and Portland earlier this year — particularly when transiting through busy LAX, where my near-new Nintendo Switch sat unattended as I was full-body scanned. Theft at airport security checkpoints does occur, but mostly laptops and other large electronic devices are stolen — they're easier targets, as you have to take them out of your bags.

However, a brazen thief was also caught stealing more than $13,000 in cash from another traveller's bag at Rome's Fiumicino Airport in December. Thanks to CCTV footage, he was arrested just as he was about to board a flight to Russia.


Firstly, I would notify security staff about your hip replacement and the screws in your husband's back before you go through — at least there won't be any confusion if you set off the scanners.

It's also good to consolidate your items before you go through, so you don't have any valuables lying out on the tray in plain sight. Tuck your wallet or phone away in an interior pocket so it's harder for sneaky hands to get to. You could even put a lock on your bag, to put them off further — although it might alert to goodies inside. And obviously, it's not the best idea to carry large amounts of cash like the traveller I mentioned before.

I've also seen some conflicting advice — some say it's a good idea to carry a brightly coloured bag, as it will be easy to spot if someone carries it through the airport. Others say to go low key, to avoid attracting thieves' attention.

It's also an idea to write an inventory of what's in your bag on paper and keep it in your pocket, so you can check for any missing items later.

I think that despite the screws in your husband's back, you could still co-ordinate yourselves to make sure someone is there to meet your bags on the other side. Perhaps try letting your husband go a few places in line ahead of you, while you handle all the hand luggage. Don't put it through the x-ray until he's been cleared and then make your way through yourself.

Overall however, I think you should be fine. I've been through a lot of airport security checkpoints in the past few years and I'm usually carrying a laptop, iPhone and sometimes a video game system. I've never had anything stolen during this, nor has anyone else in the Travel team. So try not to worry about it too much and enjoy your trip.

Email your questions to askaway@nzherald.co.nz
Eli cannot answer all questions and can't correspond with readers.
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