wrapping luggage in plastic Cover

Wrapping Luggage In Plastic – What Benefits, If Any, Are There?

We’ve all seen people checking in luggage wrapped in clingfilm. Most of us have probably seen the self-serve wrapping stations or the stalls with attendants that will cover our luggage for us.

Immensely popular in Europe and Asia, I am always baffled about why people do this and what, if anything, is the real benefit of wrapping luggage in plastic.

Let’s dive in!

wrapping luggage in plastic Cover

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What is bag wrapping or wrapping luggage in plastic?

Bag wrapping or wrapping luggage in plastic is the concept of wrapping luggage you will check in industrial-strength plastic wrap or cling film.

While the services at the airport use industrial-strength plastic wrap or cling film, many people wrap their luggage with household cling film. Yes, it’s an actual thing!

wrapping luggage with household cling film

What are the advantages of wrapping luggage in plastic?

This is where myths kick in.

Aside from protecting the actual luggage from potential damage, most people wrap their luggage because they think it protects the contents.

In short, the most common reason people wrap their luggage is to deter theft.

Luggage Wrapping Benefit Claims:

Prevent Potential Luggage Damage

Stop a suitcase from getting dents and scratches, and protect against rain or bad weather.

Luggage Insurance

Some bag wrap services at the airport include onward journey baggage liability coverage, which helps prevent your items from being damaged or lost on your immediate journey.

Sounds good, right? However, in almost all cases (pun intended), your travel insurance provides this. And, if you did not buy travel insurance and paid for your travel with a travel credit card, most, if not all, provide this.

Prevent Luggage Bursting

Luggage wrapping will prevent your luggage from bursting open during transit. However, this is silly. If you need to wrap luggage in plastic to prevent it from bursting, you over-packed it.

Now, there is one use for this that’s legit that could save the day. Suppose your luggage bursts or the zip breaks before you check your bags in. If so, this is a quick solution to get your luggage where it needs to go.

Easily Identify Luggage

Sure, it’s easy to spot a plastic-wrapped case. Given the number of people who wrap their luggage, this is a silly reason to pay for your bags. And there are much easier ways to make your luggage stand out.

Here are some excellent ways to make your luggage stand out from the crowd:

Stop Smuggling

This one seems reasonable in theory. Who knows what happens once your bag goes down the conveyor belt?

When you check your bag in, you are asked if you packed your luggage and if anyone else has had access to it. Airports are secure places; all staff goes through the same screening we all do. The chances of an employee pulling off an elaborate scam to add contraband to your luggage post-check-in is slim to none.

This said, there is a famous case where the defense was that the airport staff planted drugs in a traveler’s body bag. Google Schapelle Leigh Corby from Australia.

I’ve read the case, and while there are some gaps in evidence on both sides, my conclusion is that the drugs were not planted. Think about this. How would they retrieve the drugs if you were not involved? Schapelle Leigh Corby’s case increased the sale of TSA locks and the service of wrapping bags in Australia. However, all airports use Explosive Detection System (EDS) to scan checked luggage BEFORE it gets loaded onto the plane.

If these scans identify anything that looks suspicious, they can and will open your luggage regardless of whether it is wrapped in plastic.

If airport officials are corrupt enough to use you as a smuggling mule, wrapping your case will not prevent this. It may deter it, but it does not eliminate this one-in-a-million chance.

Stop Smuggling In Suitcases

Deter Theft

As mentioned above, this is the main reason people wrap their luggage in plastic.

The assumption is your luggage is exempt from being tampered with after your luggage is checked.

Sadly, this is just not true.

So, if the main lure for most is theft prevention, why is it not a practical solution?

Stated it’s because even though you may have already scanned your bags before check-in, they are subject to additional scans before they make it onto a plane.

All airports use Explosive Detection System (EDS) to scan checked luggage BEFORE it gets loaded onto the plane.

As such, if these scans identify anything that looks suspicious, they can and will open your luggage regardless of whether it is wrapped in plastic.


Will the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) unwrap my suitcase if it’s wrapped in plastic?

If something is flagged on their scanners, they will open your case and manually inspect it. If your luggage has been manually inspected, there will be a notice inside your bag advising you of this.

And will they rewrap it?

There is no rewrapping of luggage by TSA. However, they ensure minimal impact on luggage and its contents.
Note: If you paid a company to wrap your luggage, some will rewrap it for free if the TSA or other airport officials open it.

What luggage can I wrap?

Most luggage you intend to check in for your flight can be wrapped, including all suitcases, hold-alls, and backpacks. In addition, you can cover the following:
Car seats
Fishing equipment
Golfing equipment
Musical instruments
Skis, ski poles, and ski boots
wrap luggage in plastic

How much does luggage wrapping typically cost?

Most providers offer bag wrapping services for around $15 – $35 per item for luggage, then the prices climb. Pricing is based on the size of the item being wrapped.
Some bag wrapping services also offer baggage liability insurance.

Where can I find bag wrapping?

Most major airports offer luggage wrapping services, with different providers operating from other airports. Find out what bag wrap services are available at your departure airport’s official website; you may even be able to pre-book.

Is Wrapping Luggage In Plastic Environmentally Friendly?

No – it’s not.

When it comes to the environment, plastic is a big no-no. The majority of all plastic produced throughout history still exists in the world today!

Most major airports in the United States use plastic wrap facilities that claim to use non-toxic, ecologically and environmentally friendly materials.

If you insist on luggage wrapping, we suggest reusing the wrap yourself and putting it in a recycling bin at the airport when you finish it.

Preferably, we recommend you use alternatives.

Alternatives to Wrapping Luggage in Plastic

There are so many different options out there that do the same job.

Let’s start with the theft concern – a simple solution is to get a TSA lock.

What Is A TSA Lock?

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lock is a type of luggage lock that can be opened by TSA security agents using a unique key, allowing them to inspect the contents of a bag without damaging the lock or the luggage.

The purpose of TSA locks is to provide security for travelers while also allowing for the inspection of luggage by TSA.

And, if the lock on your case is not a TSA lock, they can and will break it to open your case.

Now let’s address luggage protection.

You can buy case wraps for the same price or less as wrapping one case.  There are hundreds of different options out there; here are some unusual luggage wraps that will not only protect your luggage but also make it easily identifiable.

Closing Thoughts

If you think wrapping luggage in plastic protects you from theft, think again – it does not. Nor does it make it any easier to identify your case quickly. It’s expensive; it’s damaging to the environment, and there are better ways to protect your suitcases.

This all said, if it makes you feel more comfortable, then go for it.

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