It’s one of the busiest airports in the world, but it’s fast earning a tarnished reputation.
More than 200 thefts occur daily at the New York City airport, law enforcement officials told CBS New York.
What’s worse is that these thefts are not being reported – rather, the airlines involved write the stolen items off as ‘lost luggage.’
JFK security lawyer Kenneth Mollins told CBS New York: ‘The belly of the airplane has become like a flea market for airport employees.
‘They go in there and go through all the luggage unencumbered.’
He is representing Rita Lamberg, a passenger who had more than $160,000 worth of jewellery stolen from her checked bag at JFK.
Ms Lamberg told CBS New York that thinking of her stolen belongings makes her ‘so sick. This is a lifetime of savings, my savings,’ she said.
Former NYPD Frank Shea confirmed Mr Mollins’ story, saying that checked baggage is a treasure trove for thieves, since there is often little to no repercussion.
‘What we’re seeing out there is that really anything that isn’t nailed down is being stolen and for that matter, I would caution… if there weren’t tires missing from the aircraft,’ Mr Shea told the station.
The CBS report states that the airlines aren’t reporting these thefts because it would discourage customers from flying.
Instead, they tell customers that their bags were lost in transit.
The report notes that when airline employees are looking for a bag from which to steal, they often go for designer or expensive-looking suitcases.
What’s worse – after a bag is checked, there is little customers can do to protect their belongings.
Current TSA screening mandates require the government organisation to inspect any and all bags they choose.
Checked baggage with unapproved locks will be removed if the TSA needs to inspect the luggage. Many travellers have said their luggage is returned to them without the lock on it.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey – which owns JFK International – said all employees are subject to background checks.
Their finger prints are also run through an FBI database.
Nonetheless, getting compensated for stolen items is an uphill battle. For instance, most every insurance claim will ask for pictures of the stolen goods, as well as original receipts and the item’s current value.
For those with heirloom jewellery or items received as gifts, those numbers can be difficult to estimate.
As a result of the report, the airport says they will be installing more cameras to catch the thieves.
In 2010, police charged veteran American Airlines worker Henry Ibarra for stealing nearly $8,000 worth of items from bags.
Among the stolen items: iPods, Kindle readers, DVD players, cameras, and Nintendo gaming systems. He worked as part of the airline’s clean-up crew for 41 years.