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Luggage with built-in locks

I'm contemplating getting myself a new set of luggage (I've been contemplating this for awhile but, as you might imagine, have hardly been in a rush what with no real travel in the near future).

A number of sets I'm looking at have built-in locks (either combination clasps, or combination locks in to which you secure the zipper pulls).

Thing is... I almost never lock up my luggage as is. I will if it's stored out of sight in the luggage racks of a train or left at the bell desk of a hotel, but will rarely bother when flying. With international travel, especially, the Travel Sentry locks (which is the standard the TSA uses) is hardly universal.

So my question is... does anyone here have luggage with built in locks? Have they caused you any issues? My worry is, with some aftermarket little travel padlock, some security person could just snip it off if they really wanted to inspect your luggage and didn't have a key. But with built-in locks, I suppose we'd hope they'd contact the passenger to open it rather than take a power drill to it? haha. One could choose to not use a separate lock if they wanted, but if it's built in and required to close a suitcase it might then be an issue.

Posted by
4429 posts

I have been using Travel Sentry certified TSA approved locks for over 10 years and never had them cut off...because. I have had my luggage opened and searched in American airports, and international airports. In the past 4 years, I wonder if anyone here has had their lock cut off? And if so, where?
FWIW, Travel Sentry states there are 44 countries, 650 airports and 2 billion passengers annually using their system. The map is actually interesting. Few in South America, but I know that they didn't cut my lock in Ecuador (which is not on their map). Maybe you just need to be aware of what countries do use it?

I guess as long as luggage can be used without the built-in locks, then it's okay, but I wouldn't buy them if there is a risk of having it damaged beyond use. A new lock is cheaper and less inconvenient than a new suitcase.

Posted by
10516 posts

The last time I had luggage with built in locks it looked like this

Do not expect a 'page' from security to come unlock your checked bag.

Nor would I count on security taking the time to figure out how to unfasten/open a latching mechanism that looks locked.
( When a fireman needs to open a window in a hurry, he uses his ax. I would expect security to be like minded in their approach to a bag)

Happy shopping

Posted by
2864 posts

Never even considered using them, and I don't use locks either.
Years ago a friend told me to use cable ties/ zap-straps.
You can snug them right down, and you can always find someone a hotel desk with scissors or a pocket knife to cut them off when you get where you're going.
In over 25 years, I've never had one cut off by an airport official or customs .

Posted by
8202 posts

I thought all the built-in locks had to be TSA-compliant for several years as well. I can't imagine a TSA inspector halting the baggage loading process to come up from the bowels of the airport to look for you to politely ask you to unlock your bag. Other countries' inspectors might be even less polite.

I use zip ties or carabiners to keep my bags from opening, but don't have anything of value in checked bags anyway. A real their wouldn't hesitate from cutting open a soft shell bag with a box cutter. I've not personally seen a bag with a lock cut-off, but have seen bags come down the chute with that protective plastic wrap cut away.

Posted by
13237 posts

The last time I locked my bag I was traveling with my brother and SIL. We'd all gotten the aftermarket double loop cable locks. SIL tried to undo hers in the airport on the way over to get something out and the lock jammed. We finally got a nice person at a store to use scissors and mangle thru the dang thing. We got to the hotel in Ireland and my brother's jammed so he had to borrow pliers from hotel maintenance. I got mine off with no problems and threw it away immediately! Now I just use carabiners as mentioned upthread even though I now check my suitcase.

I'd worry that the built in locks would fail and you'd be stuck having to pry the whole suitcase open.

Posted by
10338 posts

I always use TSA approved locks. And a few times they were either cut or broken off.. I wouldn’t want built on locks. What happens if they are broke or become impossible to use anymore?

Posted by
22984 posts

I have a couple of bags with the built-in comb lock. I left it set at the factory setting of 000. When I lock bag I lock it at 010 and have a piece of tape on the bag that says -- Unlock 000. Over the years I have had the bag opened a couple of times with no problems.

Posted by
6929 posts

I’ve got Eagle Creek padlocks from more than 20 years ago (before 9/11), and they don’t have the TSA approved symbol. They haven’t been clipped off, and I use them on a day pack on the plane (nice to know that if I’m in the restroom, the bag’s secure), as well as on my suitcase in the hotel room, plus onboard a bus or train. It’s great to be able to set the wheels to my own combination.

My newest spinner suitcase comes with a built-in lock compartment, into which tabs on the 2 zippers snap. It’s handy, and there’s no separate lock to keep track of, and I can set the combination. Maybe airline security has opened my locks/bags without damage, maybe I’ve never had a bag worth opening, or was just lucky. But my locks have never presented a problem, nor been cut off. A little lock probably wouldn’t deter a really determined thief, but having a small, lightweight, simple lock, or lockable zippers, has kept honest people honest, and I know my bag’s secure - as long as I remember to secure the lock!

Posted by
14149 posts

My regular luggage has a built in TSA approved/Travel Sentry lock. If you notice, there is a place for a key. That's not for the user. That's for the authorities who need to get into your bag. All over the world, they have keys.

The same goes for non-built in locks. As long as it is "TSA approved" there will be a place for a key. (The lock will have sort of a red diamond symbol.)

And don't let the TSA thing get to you. It's just the common name given to these type of locks. This style--Travel Sentry--is becoming a standard around the world. My current bag, purchased in the UK, and not sold in the U.S., has a Travel Sentry built in lock.

That's not to say some cheap luggage may not have a TSA approved lock. Then you will be in trouble.

Posted by
1259 posts

I also use nylon zips on any bag that would need to be checked. I never check my bag. Gate-lock carabiners on my carry-on bag to hold the zipper pulls together, which will only deter a determined thief for a few moments, of course, but makes me feel like I'm doing something.

Posted by
4429 posts

I will just mention that I do padlock my carry on luggage only because I travel solo and often on overnight flights. Even going to the toilet can entail wait times in a queue, so if I am asleep or away from my seat and not able to watch my stuff, I feel better with it locked.

Posted by
185 posts

We do the same thing with carry-ons (back packs). Sure, someone can steal the entire backpack but more likely they just reach in grab something and hope you don't notice until you are off the plane. We don't put locks on checked luggage, we just don't put anything in there that can't be replaced easily. We had luggage "missing" for 1 week in Scilly, a definite inconvenience but found everything we needed.

Posted by
33 posts

I purchased a Samsonite carry-one suitcase with a built-in lock. On the first trip with it to Ireland on day 4, the lock would not open. We checked the online manual for the bag and YouTube videos on ways to bypass the lock - none of which worked. Finally, we had to break the lock to access my clothes and medication. Container Store kindly exchanged the bag with the broken lock for a new one. Since then, I've not used the built-in lock, but added an external TSA lock when checking. While I love the bag because it is a perfect carry-on and very lightweight, I would not purchase another bag with a built-in lock.

Posted by
357 posts

Many of the forum travelers do as RS advises and only carry one bag, preferably a carry on size. Why are you buying a set of luggage? Is your traveling partner going to use the big bag? Giant luggage makes no sense unless you are moving to Europe, then I would use a box so wouldn’t have to store it. I agree with others, built-in locks are just a step away from a malfunction. Lots of other security options have been offered.

Posted by
15302 posts

... if it's built in and required to close a suitcase it might then be
an issue.

It definitely would be an issue if it got jammed and had to be broken to get into the bag. And no, the TSA won't contact you to open it for them if their universal key won't work. Honestly, we've never locked a bag; never felt the need to. We do check a soft-sided Travelpro bag apiece (not huge but a bit larger than carryon size) when we travel for 2-3 week trips. Our luggage 'set' came with a couple of carryon bags small enough to fit under the seat. Both have a piece which slips over the handles of the larger bag for easy transport on foot.

Posted by
4083 posts

I travel carry-on only, no matter the length of the trip. Pack for a week, wash, dry, repeat.

My "locking" system revolves around split key rings of different sizes. Can someone remove them? Yes. Will it take time and effort, probably involving a little cussing? Yes. Is what's in my little bag worth the effort? Nope. Any smart thief would just take the whole thing.

I've never been very concerned about my underseat bag when going to the toilet on the plane. I usually have the truly important stuff on me in a money belt and I usually take my small purse with me. I also use the purse at my lower back while in the seat with the strap over my body, so it's easy to pull up and over my shoulder to head down the aisle.

Posted by
1316 posts

Doesn't answer yr built it questions

But I have had a TSA approved lock cut off during domestic travel. They left me the lock remains and s note inside the bag. 😬

Posted by
15302 posts

I have the same question as Nigel. That said...

whenever you need to open them, immediately open them and offer a
security person to inspect thoroughly,

It doesn't work like that with checked baggage. If the authorities feel the need to open and inspect them, that occurs AFTER the bag has been checked and not in your presence. Should a scan of the bag turn up something that arouses enough suspicion to open and inspect it, they will break it open if it's locked and an approved, universal key doesn't work.

I've had notes left in my (unlocked) bag several times stating that it had been opened and inspected.

Posted by
15302 posts

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