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TSA locks and luggage

Just got back from a long trip (3 weeks) in Ireland, Scotland, and England. I’ve used my suitcase on multiple trips to various places in and out of country. Bought a new one on this trip to bring home souvenirs and clothing. Never had a problem until returning from Heathrow airport where they cut my TSA approved locks and thereby ruined both bags. Not sure what the solution is or what the best remedy would be for future travel, but I am confused as to why the locks were cut. Nothing was disturbed inside the bags. Very disappointing that my suitcases were ruined. Anyone have any solutions for the future? I try to take only a carry on for most trips, but that isn’t always possible for longer trips, and yes, I did pack using merino wool (which was a great way to stretch clothing usage). TIA for any tips for future travel.

Posted by
413 posts

They were cut off because they are TSA approved locks and the security at Heathrow is not TSA. I don’t really know what it’s called but I know it’s not the TSA. They don’t always have the keys and methods to open your suitcase that you might’ve had as you’ve been in the United States

The solution is do not put valuables in your luggage and not worry about locking it. I’ve never locked a checked suitcase in my life. So far no one’s stolen my dirty underwear- but if they do oh well!

Posted by
16091 posts

Same as Carol, we've never locked our checked bags, and never felt the need to as we don't put anything of real value or that we MUST have (such as medication, charging cords, etc.) in them. I have had a checked bag opened (unzipped) for airport searches twice; notes were left inside that a look-see had been performed. Nothing was removed, and no damage to the bag.

Posted by
15668 posts

They were cut off because they are TSA approved locks and the security at Heathrow is not TSA. I don’t really know what it’s called but I know it’s not the TSA. They don’t always have the keys and methods to open your suitcase that you might’ve had as you’ve been in the United States.

Sorry, no. TSA locks are now universal on bags sold throughout the world. Basically, it shows they have built in locks and are of good quality. Security and Customs officers at airports throughout the world have keys for them.

In fact, you can buy those keys on the internet.

It's possible that it wasn't security that cut them off. It could have been malicious baggage handlers, airline employees, anyone with access to your bags behind the scenes.

Best bet is to not lock them and only keep clothes and toiletries in checked bags.

Posted by
8622 posts

This is why I don't buy luggage with built in locks. They do end up creating problems sometimes. I am sorry this happened to you. I find that what I am really looking for is a way to keep the zippers from opening accidentally or without me knowing that they had been opened. I use tamper tell easy security zip locks.

edited to add: I just discovered Amazon doesn't sell this brand anymore, but they do sell these which are the same idea. Keeps zippers closed, lets you know if its been opened, and can be removed without scissors.
https://www.amazon.com/Pull-Tite-Security-Numbered-Plastic-Extinguisher/dp/B0CY2618WF?th=1

Posted by
2908 posts

robinmmangum, so sorry Heathrow damaged your luggage. It’s a lesson to all of us—don’t lock our luggage.

Carol now retired, I use these looped key holders to secure the zippers. 6” works best, I like to color coordinate with my suitcase and tote so they aren’t as obvious. 4 1/2” will also work but I find them harder to screw together with arthritic hands.

Posted by
415 posts

I always lock my luggage - no need to make it easy for thieves. But I also don't use built in locks - I use separate TSA locks. On a few occasions they've been cut by airport security, but it's only a few dollars to replace.

Posted by
493 posts

I’m sorry you luggage was damaged.

When you really think about it, once it’s dropped on the luggage belt doesn’t pretty much everyone handling the baggage have access to open the lock one way or another? I don’t pack anything worth stealing in checked luggage. But I still add a small tsa lock to it even though I’m not sure is anything but a false sense of security. But I’d never have luggage with built in locks for exactly what you experienced.

I just flew a very short domestic flight with checked luggage. I had a nice luggage tag that was zip tied onto the luggage; which is how my luggage tag is always attached. When I gathered my bag the luggage tag was gone. It had to have been cut off; but why? Who knows what goes on behind the scenes.

Posted by
18750 posts

I have a carryon with the latches with the TSA combo locks. Never used the things. I had a friend comment that I should. So I carefully set the combo, checked it a few times and it worked and on that flight I ended up checking the bag. I got to my room at my hotel Sarajevo and the locks wouldnt open. Fortunately the disk clerk had a big screwdriver and watched as with very little effort i popped the latches open. No damage to the bag and doesnt even look like any damage to the lock. Not that I will ever use them again.

The best idea I have every seen is a zip tie, but be sure to carry a pocket knife with you to cut it when you get to the hotel .... wait, nope that wont work. A paper clip then. That way at least you know if someone opened your bag and it prevents someone from doing it quickly and as-unnoticed. "maybe". Naaaa, just dont lock it. Put the expensive stuff in your personal carryon item.

Posted by
413 posts

Oh my oh my goodness I needed to laugh today and I just got one. Basically the TSA emblem shows there a good quality and they’re recognized all over the world.

Good quality? That’s the most hysterical thing I’ve ever read because I can break into a TSA lock and I’m hardly a locksmith.

As for recognized internationally. Well, yes, most international agencies do know what they are and can open most of them. But just because the TSA has approved the lock doesn’t necessarily mean everybody in the world is playing along with us

Posted by
23464 posts

.....The best idea I have every seen is a zip tie, but be sure to carry a pocket knife with you to cut it when you get to the hotel..... Actually the best thing to carry is a toe nail clippers. A pocket knife gets everyone excited. A toe nail clipper is common place and works great with zip ties. We have used zip ties since the start of TSA inspections with no problems.

Posted by
175 posts

My suitcase doesn’t have built-in locks. To keep the zippers secure, I have been using the S-biner micro locks (which I learned about in a post on these forums) that lock and unlock with a twist. But this thread has me thinking maybe even those might not be advisable, lest someone behind the scenes (whether an airport employee or a random miscreant) think they are harder to open than they really are.

For the record, I don’t pack valuables in my checked luggage. In fact, my longstanding personal rule is not to travel with anything of significant monetary or sentimental value or anything that would be difficult to replace.

Posted by
5116 posts

What Frank said ^^^^. We've always just used zip ties to prevent them accidentally being opened, and a nail clipper in an outside pocket of the bag or my purse.

Posted by
11368 posts

I always have locked my luggage without any problems! I never realized that most travelers do not lock their luggage.

Posted by
8632 posts

Suki, I just use a twist tie, a zip tie, a safety pin, or even a paper clip, to keep it closed. It makes it easy for inspectors to get in, as a thief can easily get in whether it's locked or not. As was said, anyone can buy those keys on Amazon, or a screwdriver or boxcutter can open up a piece of luggage.

Posted by
23464 posts

I think the idea of theft from checked luggage is over rated. Our bags have been opened a few times with a note from TSA. Have no idea what triggers the inspection. The plastic tie was cut off and replaced with an orange tie and a note. With all the camera in the inspection areas I doubt if anyone is going to try to steal anything. I am more concerned about the zippers catching on something and opening the bag. Anything of value is with me in the carry on.

Posted by
18750 posts

Suki. Mist travelers don't. Most tourists do. Just kidding. Unless someone wants my boxers (dirty on the eay home), not much to steal ..

Posted by
4174 posts

I don't check luggage unless I absolutely have to for some reason, but I still like to secure the zippers on my carry-on, my personal item and on my purse or day bag.

My method of choice is split key rings. Yes, they can be removed, but it takes a bit of effort -- for me or anyone else. I have them in a variety of sizes, like these in stainless steel.

I also have mini carabiners like these that work well. My husband preferred zip ties back when he traveled.

Posted by
415 posts

"Sorry, no. TSA locks are now universal on bags sold throughout the world"

Plenty of bags sold here without TSA locks... It's not exactly a recognised international standard.

Posted by
906 posts

I read an article recently about baggage handlers recommending not to put ribbons on bags for identification as they can get caught in the equipment/conveyor bekts. Causes jams in the equipment and possible damage to the bags. Its possible luggage tags or locks may have been lost that way.

My bag doesn't have built in locks. Most of the time I use a TSA lock with a short cable, large easy to read numbers and an indicator if its been unlocked. No valuables in my bags but I do want to know if its been opened.

Posted by
23464 posts

Our experience with TSA inspecting bag is that they leave a pre-printed note behind that they opened the bag. Never know what triggers the inspection. Never opened in Europe only in the US.