Stolen luggage from YVR baggage carousel raises security concerns

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Right now anyone can walk … into the domestic baggage area without having a ticket or going through security

Clare Hennig · CBC News · Posted: Jul 19, 2019

Jocelyn Pettit, a professional musician and dancer, was flying back to B.C. from Scotland for work-related performances this summer. Much of the equipment she needs for the shows was stolen. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

When musician Jocelyn Pettit landed at Vancouver International Airport, she hurried off the plane and headed straight to the domestic baggage claim — but she never saw her luggage arrive. 

After some back-and-forth with staff and several hours later, Richmond RCMP showed up to review the surveillance footage which showed a suspect grabbing two bags off the carousel. 

“It had all my valuable and highly specialized music equipment, custom dance shoes,” said Pettit, who works as a professional musician and dancer. 

“It’s everything I need for my livelihood except my fiddle which, thankfully, I had with me.” 

This is not the first time suitcases have been stolen from the baggage carousel at the Vancouver airport. (CBC)

She also lost several important personal items, including irreplaceable gifts for her family. 

Pettit had been living in Scotland and was flying back to B.C. for the summer for work-related performances. She flew from Glasgow to Vancouver via Toronto on Sunday. 

RCMP confirmed to CBC News that a man is believed to have stolen her suitcase from domestic arrivals and then fled on the SkyTrain. Their investigation in ongoing. 

“We are currently deploying officers in an overt and covert capacity to disrupt and arrest luggage thieves,” Richmond RCMP said in a statement. 

This isn’t the first time thieves have targeted the baggage area at Vancouver’s airport. 

Musician Jocelyn Pettit says she’s ‘shocked’ at how easily her luggage was stolen from the baggage area. She lost several irreplaceable items. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In 2017, a 46-year-old man was arrested in connection with a spree of stolen luggage at YVR using the same tactics. 

“It’s just so upsetting that nothing has happened. There has been no change in place to prevent this from continuing to happen,” Pettit said. 

Right now, anyone can walk through the terminal and into the domestic baggage area, without having a ticket or going through security — giving them access to grab any suitcase they want. 

“There was no security there. No guards to prevent people from walking right up to the carousel,” she said. “There is no signage warning passengers that it’s a high risk area for theft.” 

Air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs says it’s the airline, not the airport that bears the brunt of the liability in cases like this. (CBC)

Officials at YVR say there are multiple layers of security protocol in place and that they’ve recently blocked off certain access points. 

According to a Canadian air passenger rights advocate, the airport does not bear the brunt of the liability in cases like this. The airline does.

“The airline is responsible for your baggage from the time you hand it over until the time you get it back,” said Gabor Lukacs, founder and co-ordinator of Air Passenger Rights.

He says the airline is required to compensate Pettit for the contents of her stolen bag, although the airport and other parties around baggage security could later be held liable to the airline. 

Musician Jocelyn Pettit picks ups rental gear to replace some of what was lost before her show on Sunday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Air Canada said in a statement “baggage theft is unacceptable” adding it is frustrating for both customers and employees.

“We have regular discussions with YVR, who is responsible for the airport facilities, and the RCMP and other stakeholders about the publicly accessible domestic baggage carousel areas,” it said.

It said all claims are handled directly with passengers.

In the meantime, Pettit is trying to replace her equipment and renting what she can before her upcoming show in Surrey on Sunday. 

“I hope to be compensated because this is a huge loss financially but, more than anything, I just don’t want this to happen to other people,” she said.