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Locking Luggage

What is the current status about locking your luggage. For example is it true you have to have a TSA-recognized lock or else they will cut your lock if necessary?


Posted by
31522 posts


There's no guarantee they won't cut the lock off regardless of whether it's a TSA or not. However, that's less likely to happen with a TSA lock since they can open it with a "pass key". Some people just use a cable tie or a twist tie. I prefer to use a TSA Padlock and only once has that been cut off.

Posted by
5711 posts

We had two bags when visiting the States, both of which had a TSA lock. When we arrived back in the UK, one had the TSA lock in place. The other had a missing lock and the bag (like some others on the carousel) was wide open with the contents spilling out. I haven't bothered with the expense of a TSA replacement lock, I have just a standard padlock. I haven't had any issues travelling widely in Europe since, but I haven't been back to America yet.

They do have the right to cut locks off.

Posted by
1078 posts

I have been going to and from the EU and the UK at least twice a year since '96 and have never locked my bags or lost anything. I have opened them on arrival into the EU and there was a card from TSA that they had opened it for some security reason. My belief is that thieves are not targeting black or common bags but are only interested in the high end kind that could contain high end items. I don't think you need to lock bags going to or from anywhere in the EU. This trip has been BOS to KEF to FRA and then Gatwick to Athens to Rome thus far with no incidence.

Posted by
5527 posts

I'm about to try single use cable lock(plastic). Mostly just lets you know if the bag has been opened

Posted by
21858 posts

If the bag is opened by TSA in the US, then there will be a note in the bag that it was inspected. If the bag is open in Europe have no idea if a note is included or not. Second, a TSA lock means nothing to a European inspector. For us, we use the plastic cable ties for all of our luggage. Not so much as theft prevent but to prevent the zipper pull from accidentally being pulled open by machine or other bags. A couple of times, in the US, the tie has been removed and replaced with an orange one when inspected.

If you have a lock on the bag and they want to inspect it, they will cut it off. But I think the TSA support locks are a waste of money because there have been reports of those locks being cut off.

Posted by
9926 posts

I'm to the point that I just use an inexpensive carabiner to keep the zippers from coming open, with a twist tie as a back up. I do use a brightly colored luggage strap for ID purposes and tuck the zippers under the strap. I don't pack anything valuable when I check my bag.

A couple of years ago, I was flying with my brother and SIL and we had massive cable lock failure resulting in both of them having to borrow scissors (at the SEA airport and in the hotel in Dublin) to cut the cables to get the locks off. What a pain. I threw away my lock.

Posted by
2329 posts

I don't bother with a lock when flying, just a twist-tie, never had any problems. I do have locks for my suitcase and carry-on to use when leaving my room or having the hotel hold my bags.

Posted by
5789 posts

One more reason to carry on.

Nothing in life is guaranteed. Do a web search for" "theft from airline carry on luggage". First hit:

When traveling with valuables, it seems common sense to keep them in a
carry-on bag. But recent evidence suggests the overhead baggage bins
on planes are not always the safest place to stash your goods....

George Hobica, founder of, says airplane theft is
more common than people think.

Posted by
1781 posts

Hi Gerry, I use RS flight locks ( Not so much for security reasons, basically just to keep the zippers from opening and having my stuff fall out (this has happened!). They are cheap and do the job. TSA locks are fine when traveling within the US, but not for Europe.

Posted by
31522 posts

I often also lock my underseat carry-on if I'm getting up to stretch my legs, as I've heard about aircraft cabin thefts. I haven't had any problems so far, but there's always the possibility of that.

The main reason I lock my main pack is that on a past occasion I've found the zippers were partially open when I retrieved it from the carousel, possibly from rough handling or whatever. Fortunately nothing had fallen out that time.

Posted by
1976 posts

I keep meaning to bring twist ties for the zippers on my suitcase in case I have to check it, but I always forget. I don't worry about anyone going through the bag. I don't put anything of value in there. Thieves are welcome to my socks and underwear!

@Frank, to address your comment about bags searched in Europe, in 2007 US Airways misplaced my luggage for my entire two-week trip. I flew from Philadelphia into Paris, went to Amsterdam, Germany, and finally England where I flew home. The bag didn't make my flight to Paris and followed me for the whole trip. It finally caught up to me in the hotel in Manchester the night before I came home. It had been searched and there was an official card inside. I don't remember if the card was from the TSA or French security.

Posted by
11450 posts

I have never locked a bag in over 35 years of travel, and i travel a fair amount. Just lucky i guess, never experienced a theft èither, that and the fact i use cheap/modest luggage( so theives must realize there will be no designer xlothes or shoes in my bag lol)

Posted by
13727 posts

I travel internationally 3 times a year, in the US another 2 times a year. I find the TSA note in my bag about one trip in four. I use TSA approved locks that I purchase at Walmart for about $7. That works out to about 14 cents a trip. Never had one cut off or not put back on. I guess I just live right.

Posted by
9363 posts

I don't lock my bag, I just use cable ties. They can easily cut them off, if they need to, without damaging my bag. I mainly just use the ties to keep the zippers from coming open accidentally. I once found on arrival in Madrid that they had opened my bag - the cable tie was replaced with a more robust one - but there was no note.

Posted by
203 posts

I have travelled to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, chile, Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Netherlands, France, Belgium, England, Wales, USA, Canada,Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and New Zealand and have never put a lock on any of my bags. I never say never but I have no intention of ever doing so.

Posted by
5789 posts

Domestic China flights require that checked bags must be locked. They X-ray the bags at check-in and don't issue the boarding pass until your bag goes through security. The passenger needs to unlock the bag and be present during the inspection. Any lock will do.

However, China aviation and transportation authorities have a
different rule on this issue and your checked baggage must be locked
during the transportation in China. You only need to lock the main
compartment of your baggage. This is a Chinese regulation. If your bag
is found unlocked during transit, the airline or the train station
will lock it for you and you will be billed for the locks. So prepare
locks for the main compartment of each bag and any lock will do.