What do "Fragile" stickers on checked baggage do?
When traveling by air and checking bags, some airlines will let you declare an item as fragile and put stickers on the box or bag. How common is this policy? What do the fragile stickers do (i.e. how do they change the baggage handling process)? Is this generally recommended when traveling with fragile luggage (to avoid items being damaged in transit) or discouraged (because it may make an item a bigger target for theft)?
I don't know what Fragile stickers prevent from, but I do know that professional photographers rely more on solid luggage than on stickers.
they give you the false impression that the airline would actually care about your luggage. Search "baggage handler" on youtube :|
'Fragile' would be a useful sticker for cargo air freight providers, not passenger airlines.
seeing the way luggage handlers handle luggage, it's most likely to them like a red flag is to a bull, an invitation to be rough with it. If it's really fragile, ship it using an overnight courier to your hotel so it's there when you get there (do call ahead to make arrangements for them to receive it of course).
Contrary to what everybody is **speculating** here, I'm pretty sure that there are different specific procedures for items marked fragile. I don't know if it's at the airline or airport level or if it gives you any rights or if it improves statistically the chances of avoiding damage. I believe fragile items will be packed separately. I would like to see some referenced answers.
im just surprised airlines haven't (yet) thought of charging extra for tagging your suitcase as fragile...
I know from experience that some airlines will treat you nicely, and at least one has put in writing that broken or missing handles are "normal wear and tear" which they are not responsible for. PeruStar says that identifying a bicycle as such absolves them of any responsibility (the repairs to my Brompton that was folded and in a case were very expensive). Another airline promised to pay for the repairs for damage to the same Brompton but never did so.
Think about what your luggage goes through from the time you check it until you get it back.
It travels on automatic conveyor belts. In many situations, it must be shunted from one conveyor belt to another. This is done by machines, not humans. The machines cannot see the "fragile" tag.
It is moved from conveyor-belt to dolly by a human. The human may, or may not, notice the "fragile" tag.
It is packed in the cargo hold by humans. Depending on the orientation of the item, the human may, or may not, notice the "fragile" tag. When they pack it in the cargo hold, they may put other bags on top of it.
It spends some time outside, exposed to the elements. No matter how many fragile tags you put on, there will come a point where your suitcase must make its way up the conveyor belt into the aircraft. If it is raining, snowing, cold, or hot, it will be exposed to the elements at this point.
It spills out of an automatic conveyor line onto a rotating baggage carousel. As it rotates on the carousel, other bags may fall on top of it. Other passengers may pick it up, thinking it's their bag, and handle it. When they discover it's not theirs, they may, or may not, honor the "Fragile" sticker.
Oh, and let's not forget:
It flies through the air, at 40,000 feet, at 600 miles per hour. It may encounter bad weather or turbulence, causing intensive shaking of the contents for a prolonged period of time.
When all is said and done, it's a miracle anything gets anywhere unscathed, "fragile" sticker notwithstanding.
The technology exists to read the fragile tag on the belt, it simply is not worth the cost or considered necessary by airports or airlines.
"It is packed in the cargo hold by humans" Actually, for larger planes, it is packed into a cargo container by humans and the container is loaded into the plane. Imagine how long it would take to load 450 people's bags onto a 747, one at a time. Also, it's largely irrelevant that the bag is flying at 40,000ft or at 600mph. Merely travelling at speed doesn't damage things, the cargo hold is pressurized and most flights don't encounter turbulence severe enough to damage things.
@dpollitt A 'fragile' flag could be added to the luggage tag, so that the bag is routed in smoother way.
And no guarantee that the handler even uses the equipment properly. I watched a gate check bag lifted over a one-meter high rall and dropped onto the other side, when the rail had a hole designed to allow sliding the bag through it. I have seen bags tossed into the air in order to land on a stack higher than the handler's head. How much weight is on the items on the bottom of the stack? The parts bent on my bicycle could not be unbent by me (85 kg) jumping on them.