Subject: Airline Baggage Inspection
Hi Ziners ...

I thought I would share with you all the experience my husband and I had three weeks ago when flying to Vienna from New York (JFK) on Austrian Air. After being ticketed and checking our two bags (NO locks allowed), I noticed that all bags went to an x-ray machine across the "lobby." Since we had nearly one and a half hours until our flight was to board, I stopped to watch what happened at this machine. ALL bags were sent through the x-ray machine where no one paid particular attention (no one was watching the machine to view luggage contents) except to let the person "feeding" the bags through know that he could send another one through the machine. However, EVERY bag was opened, completely unpacked, and in our case, an inside liner zipper was unzipped so the inspectors could get to the rails that enclose the handles. At this point, I wondered why I had been so careful of my packing to alleviate wrinkles as everything was put back in the bags in a helter-skelter fashion.

When we arrived in Vienna and got our bags at our hotel, they were locked with twist-ties which we have seen before in our travels. But, the most interesting things were the notes/ publications that were inside. In both my husband's and my suitcases were notes that the bags had been searched at Austrian Air security, and in my suitcase, there was another note which said cigarette lighters had been removed as they were prohibited in checked luggage. I found this very interesting as I have had cigarette lighters removed from my carry-on luggage and my purse in previous international travel and on this trip, had specifically packed extra lighters in my luggage in case this happened again with my carry-on or purse.

On our return flight on Austrian Air from Vienna to New York, security was non-existent except for sending our checked items through an x-ray machine BEFORE we were ticketed and before our baggage was checked. I saw no bags being opened for inspection.

The security check-in at the gate in Vienna and at the security check-in point in New York at JFK were incredibly lax. I had neglected to remove my jewelry and my reading glasses which always set off the buzzers which they did this time at JFK. Normally, I have been taken to a chair and completely "scanned." Not this time ... the woman looked at me and simply ran her hands over my arms and legs and said, "thank you." And my cigarette lighter in my handbag was not confiscated. In Vienna, nothing occurred.

Not sure what to make of all this except to say that the consistency of security checks appears to be nil. We have learned that locks on luggage are a thing of the past. We have used blue plastic ties for our international trips during the past year with no problems. Most airlines rely on a color change of the plastic ties to notify you that your bags have been opened so the notes inside our luggage inspected by Austrian Air were a grand and most appreciate surprise.

Cynthia & Ivan Pomona, New York