Letter to the Editor, by Anu Raghunathan

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – We live in New Jersey, U.S. and we traveled to Rio de Janeiro for the Christmas/New Year’s Holidays with our son who is seven years old and our daughter who is sixteen months.

Our son is severely allergic to tree nuts and seafood. So we make sure to take the emergency Epipen and Benadryl for all our trips and also check the food availability at the hotels.

We stayed at the Miramar Hotel (Windsor) at Copacabana beach. We had a great time no doubt.

Before we traveled some of our friends warned us about the safety of Rio and we were very careful during our visit.

On our return date, January 2, 2015, we checked-in and waited at the American Airlines (Business class) lounge.

Our flight was from Rio to Miami and scheduled to depart at 10:10 PM. My husband left us at the lounge to buy some snacks and I left our bags on the sofa as our son wanted to use the bathroom and I had to go with him and our baby girl. When we came back, our black backpack was gone.

We had our son’s emergency medication and our iPads in that bag. We noticed it only fifteen minutes before departure.

When we complained to the staff, about the STOLEN BAG none of them were cooperative and they refused to help.

We had to leave without it and our son couldn’t eat anything until we reached NJ as he was very nervous of having an allergic reaction. Also we had all our vacation pictures on the iPads.

I cannot believe that even the lounges are unsafe in Rio. We had a bitter end to our trip.

Anu Raghunathan


  1. As everyone knows: never leave your bags unattended. And don’t blame anyone else for your own stupidities.
    And yes: I will often go to Rio again……

  2. It is sad these people lost their belongings, and especially their son’s medication. But, leaving bags unattended anywhere in an airport these days is simply an invitation to trouble. It is standard policy for airport security to seize such bags, inspect them and thoroughly inspect and question the persons who were carrying the bags. I am not sure I would blame Brasil for this loss, thieves work in airports all over the World during busy Holiday periods. Business Class thieves just dress better. Or, are airline employees. Travel on one airline in particular to Rio transiting through Atlanta once meant a 50-50 chance your bags would be opened and have items stolen.

  3. Rio, Miami, New York, London….who in their right mind leaves an important piece ot luggage unattended, in this day and age?!

  4. As a fellow American, I am embarrassed that you have chosen to blame the city of Rio, Brazilians, or anybody but yourself for making a fundamental travel error! If you think you can go anywhere in the US and leave your belongings without the risk of theft then you are badly mistaken. Take responsibility for your own mistake and stop it with your superiority complex!

  5. Sorry to hear about the bad experience, but,,,Yes always a but…. It could have been Mexico City, Panama City, it could have been Toronto, Canada or Oakland, California or Madrid, Spain. The fact is that wherever you are you offer an opportunity for someone by leaving your stuff unattended. I use the AA lounge often, if I go to wash my hands I gather my stuff and it goes with me, inconvenient? Yes indeed, but not as inconvenient as having my stuff stolen. Blame Brazil if you like and there was surely an opportunistic thief in the lounge, but don’t look for much sympathy from the attendants, service with a smile is a pretty scarce commodity in Brazil and increasingly everywhere else.

  6. Yahoo recently ran a news report highlighting the top US airports where laptop computers were being stolen. In every case…..yes, you guessed it, the owners of the laptops left it unattended and they were stolen. It is not just Rio, it is everywhere and when you travel you never leave anything unattended. Unfortunately, thieves are everywhere! I have lived in Brazil for 5 yrs and have traveled extensively to most of Brazil’s major airports. I have never experienced a theft problem but I also follow basic safety rules.

  7. Shocking lapse of concentration on the part of the travellers and shocking airport security in a city in the grip of narcoterrorism. This didn’t happen outside at the cab rank, but in a VIP lounge. CCTV switched off? PF complicit? Who knows…

  8. well, in the best of all worlds, these travelers should have been able to leave their bags momentarily unattended in the airline-run lounge at the airport. of course, we don’t live in that world, and this incident reflects a serious lack of judgement on the part of the travelers. hopefully they are seeing these comments … as already pointed out, what savvy traveler would have done that in any airport anywhere in the world, at least without asking someone – employee or trustworthy fellow traveler – to watch the bags in the meantime? the worst part about this, i think, is that there is no question in my mind (nor in the mind of anyone who knows rio and brasil and is honest with themselves) that the bags were stolen by an employee of the airline or airport.

  9. Actually, this doesn’t happen “everywhere” in the world, much less in a “Business Class” lounge. The U.A.E. comes to mind right away. Steal there, lose a hand. While I probably would not have left them unattended, even in a BC lounge, I’d have thought they’d have been safe in there. I’m guessing it was employee theft as both times I was in Rio, once I got past the check in gate, I wasn’t allowed to exit, though this was 2001 and 2004. I’m almost certain the airport has closed circuit cameras and if you pursue the matter with the authorities, they can identify the thieves, if not get your items back. Sorry for your loss though, that’s a tough one and a long trip not to eat or drink anything. I hope your son’s okay now. I wouldn’t let this one experience taint your whole perspective of Brazil. That’d be like flying into Newark, getting mugged and writing off New Jersey and the U.S. as a whole. I had some issues both times I was in Rio but I’m a big guy so I dealt with them accordingly. The country as a whole is astonishing, as are 99.9% of the people. Give it another chance when you settle down a bit. In fact, go back and re-take the photos you once had as an “F.U.” to the thief that you came back bigger and stronger.

  10. You shouldn’t leave your bags unattended anytime, as, possibly worse than stealing, someone could smuggle drugs, or even a bomb, who knows, in them, which could get you in even more trouble. That’s why the ground people must ask you if your bags were under your supervision at all times…

  11. I travel to Rio frequently. Unfortunately, I have been booked on American Airlines (by my employer), too often. I find they put on a good show of security, but it is just merely a show and I feel most insecure on AA. e.g. Once, we were sitting on the ground in the plane and a man lost control because a baby was crying. He was not put off the plane and we had to travel to Miami with this unstable character. My advice to you is: don’t give up on Rio, give up on American Airlines, the world’s largest but poorest airline.
    BTW, why did you leave your bags unattended? That is unsafe and inappropriate in any country. Did you think you were safe because you were in an American lounge. Oh so silly!

  12. It’s pretty sad, indeed. I was born and raised in Rio, and never got mugged or had anything of mine stolen in that city. Well, at age 25 I moved to the US, and lived in Newark, New Jersey for 6 months. When living there, I had my passport stolen, and when I asked the police for help, they told me to “learn English.” Sad stories…

  13. 1. When crime happens, we should first blame the criminal.
    2. Secondly we may remind and educate eachother to a safer behaviour – but never never blame the innocent (although naive, and perhaps stupid) victim.
    3. Let´s allow ourselves two thoughts in our head at the same time: we can get angry and sad about crime committed and at the same time improve safety, and try to limit crime.
    Dear Any R, I am a foreigner who loves Brazil and brazilians in general, and I hope future good memories will wipe out this bad one. It is true that crime in Brazil is distroying the country´s potential, most of all for Brazilians themselves – all other rights lose significance if there is no security – from crime. Crime and corruption in all forms eat away the beuty of this land and its people, unfortunately. I hope and pray and will add my ten cents to improving this. I would appreciate if you gave Brazil another chance – there are so many wonderful people struggling – like you, against theft – from opportunistic thieves, from politicians, from the police – building a better Brazil. I am sorry you have had to hear so many strange comments – I have daughters – I would never blame a girl for rape – even if she was dressing somewhat provocatively or was walking in dark alleys – I would always blame the perpetrator – at the same time, we can help eachother behave smarter, and learn… so come back, – give it another try – and by the way – write to American and complain. Ask for security footage. give them the names of the lazy and rude personnel there. and hopefully – whenever there is a person who stands out from the crowd, doing something extraordinary – let us give them applause and credit – and try to follow their example.

  14. We all know Rio is not the safest city in the world, but in this case, American Airlines should be responsible for their own lounge and you can sue them.

  15. Here is the U.S., theft of laptops and carry-ons are common in the airline lounges. A smart thief BUYS membership in the airline’s “club” network. He/she more than makes up for the cost of membership in just one visit to the lounge. They steal whatever is left lying around. Either this family is very Unexperienced using airline lounges/clubs, OR, they are as clueless here in the US as they are internationally.

  16. This is a part of the brasilian culture, and sadly most brasilian people agree with crime.
    They rather have these crimes, then working a lot extra on preventing them. They do only the minimum possible.

    This is no exageration. Just the facts.
    This is also no blame. I think Rio is the most beautifull city in the world.

    l too agree with comments that an unattended bag can be stolen in any big airport.
    But Brasil and especially Rio are on the top of unsafe places. and it is the brasilian people to blame. So yes : skip Brasil and find better places.

  17. Paul Johannes,

    Your cultural analysis is highly suspect, at best, and gushes of ethnic superiority, at worst. Please share with us your credentials to make such a damning allegation. Have you lived in a wide geographical range with relationships across economic barriers in the massive country of Brasil? Have you read scholarly work of those that have? If you produce no evidence to the contrary, I have to conclude that you are a simple-minded fellow with a gross (and possibly dangerous) superiority complex.

    I, for one, have had incredible experiences with Brazilians across a quite vast geographical and economic range. Based on my relationships and interactions, I find your comments incredibly uneducated.

  18. Michael,

    I am brasilian.

    I have to tell you that I was born in Brasil, but I was adopted as a baby and I got raised in Holland.
    I lived there for more then 30 years, now since 2012 I have returned to Brasil.

    Since i have lived in several big cities in Brasil. At the moment I am in Maceio, Alagoas.
    This year i will move to Rio. I think Rio is the most beautifull and most complete city in the world.

    Now my cultural view is correct.
    Brasil is at the top of the crime world list. And this is because the brasilian people agree with crime. Brasil is like a big mafia country. Most brasilian people support crime.
    As long as its not toooo heavy they accept it. they work with it. they suffer some negative parts and when possible they take advantage of it.

    Have you been robbed here? Or have you been sequestred?

    Brasilian culture is one of the most corrupt in the world.And Brasil still has a bad social system.
    Also Brasil is represented with 14 cities in the top 50 world list of most dangerous and violent cities.

  19. Paul,

    I am glad that you have a little bit better footing than I previously thought. And, having re-read my post, it erred on the side of harsh rhetoric. So, my apologies.

    However, I do think you ought to be very careful in your language here. It sounds like you and I both have similar levels of experience with Brasil. Though you are ethnically Brazilian, I think it is safe to say that you are approaching Brazil as a cultural outsider (though, perhaps you lived in Brasil for large parts of years as a kid or were very involved in 1st generation Brazilian emigrants in Holland. In which case, you would be more of a “third-culture” gentleman.). Yet, we have both come to pretty different conclusions on whether or not Brazilians (we are speaking of a whole, remember) tolerate and embrace crime culturally.

    Now, as it relates to the prevalence of corruption, I would propose a different interpretation. Brasil, though boasting a growing (read that word in italics ;-) middle class, is still run by an elite few. The “middle” and lower classes do not really have a say on how much integrity their government and commerce exhibits. After decades (and decades, and decades, and decades…) of this, there is an apathy; the type that knows their fight will not make a large-scale difference. I think that is what you are confusing. Rather than agreeing with crime, they feel disenfranchised by the corruption of police, government officials, and business leaders.

    Anyway, I am sure each of us could write essay-length responses to each other. But, we can only summarize.

  20. Your bags being stolen have nothing to do with RIO or it’s ‘safety’ and everything to do with the fact you left them unattended.

  21. I am Australian and I blame the traveller. I am always in business class lounges and would never be stupid enough to leave my bag while I went to the toilet. You couldn’t do that anywhere in the world. Not even in the United States where the traveller was from. The traveller needs to wake up and smell the coffee.


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