While it’s understandable that travelers want to lock their baggage to protect their personal belongings, it’s also important to understand that TSA officers must be able to inspect baggage and contents when the need arises. That’s where TSA recognized locks come in.
In order to ensure the safe transportation of travelers, TSA screens all checked and carry-on baggage before it is permitted to be brought onboard commercial aircraft. Technology generally enables us to electronically screen bags without opening them, but there are times when we need to physically inspect a piece of luggage. TSA has worked with several companies to develop locks that can be opened by security officers using universal "master" keys so that the locks may not have to be cut. These locks are available at most airports and many travel stores nationwide. The packaging on the locks indicates whether they can be opened by TSA.
In some cases, TSA officers will have to open your baggage as part of the screening process. If your bag is unlocked, then our officer will simply open and screen the baggage if any item alarms. However, if you decide to lock your checked baggage and TSA cannot open it through other means, then the locks may have to be cut. For soft-sided baggage, this process will not damage your zippers or zipper pulls. TSA is careful to not damage any personal belongings, however, we are not liable for damage caused to locked bags that must be opened for security purposes. Again, that is where the value of the recognized locks come in. Please note that if an officer does need to open your bag, a “Notice of Baggage Inspection” will be place in your bag.
While our officers may have to cut locks from time to time, it’s not the only reason your lock could be missing or damaged. Locks, along with your baggage, can also be damaged by airport conveyor belt systems as shown below:
The image below is a collection of 244 locks pulled from under an airport baggage handling conveyor belt where the two belts come together. These were collected over a period of one month at a New York Airport.
I hope this tip will help you better protect your property and help us keep you safe and secure when flying.
TSA Blog Team
If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact us by clicking here.