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TSA Travel Tips Tuesday: TSA Recognized Locks

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

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:

Image describing how locks can get pinched between conveyor belts and broken off.

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.

Locks broken by conveyor belt.

I hope this tip will help you better protect your property and help us keep you safe and secure when flying.

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Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team

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Submitted by Anonymous on

My beautiful quilted leather jacket was cut open on the sleeve - really NY TSA??? Ridiculous! $400 jacket is ruined!!

Submitted by Ann on

While leaving Hilo Hawaii airport I was told that the new policy was all food ex chips candy cookies had to be taken out of the carry on bags. Is this a new policy also kindle.

Submitted by Ann on

While leaving Hilo Hawaii airport I was told that the new policy was all food ex chips candy cookies had to be taken out of the carry on bags. Is this a new policy also kindle.

Submitted by Calan Smith on

I’m tired of the of the TSA stealing things out of my luggage. I fly ofen and things are stolen out of my suitcase 2-3 times a year. How can this be prevented?

Submitted by Lu Mahalo on

Someone mentioned having their go-pro stolen during an inspection by TSA. Another ripped that person for putting it in checked baggage.

In my case, after going thru TSA with my carryon bag, as we got to the door of the plane, some airline person started taking our carryon bags away from us saying they wouldn't fit the over head or on the floor. We didn't even have time to get valuables out of our carryon stuff...When we got our stuff after landing, several of us were missing cell phones.

Submitted by Lynne Wyatt on

I have no problem with TSA opening my bag or my TSA lock. What I do object to is them cutting the tab on the it can never be locked again! I have never had a TSA lock cut off but many times including recently, my zipper tab on one side has been cut off. So now I have 3 bags none of which has an intact pair of tabs!WHY do they do tgat! I am surprised at so many comments re cutting the TSA lock when my experience us they cut th e ( thinner) zipper tab.

Submitted by Carni on

I have a trip planned for Florida this spring with three friends and I purchased a locking luggage set to protect the souvenirs I intend to bring back as this is a trip that's been many years in the making. I put a lot of time and money into making this dream a reality for all of us and I want to protect the memorabilia I bring back with me. In short, my question is: If I put the bag through checked luggage unlocked, would they be so kind as to lock it once it clears? I'd rather not use zip ties as they are a hassle to undo without scissors.

Submitted by Chanell on

There are none. I once tried to travel with an empty bag over the holidays that easily folded into a small space. However, they would not allow me to take the flat bag on board, and I had to check it along with thins that did not fit in my pocket. It was a camera and a notebook. SURPRISE the notebook made it, but the camera did not.

Submitted by Freddy on

Forget it. Today TSA chisel-opened my TSA-approved TSA007 combination lock to inspect the luggage. And the ruined my suitcase built-in lock TSA-approved, too. Abusive.

Submitted by TSA Cut "TSA Ap... on

TSA cut an approved lock. The ski tote depends on a lock to keep it closed. WTF?

Submitted by CB on

Nice site. I wish it were true. I can't remember how many TSA approved locks I've purchased only to pick up my bags at the other end and have them cut off. I have to take extra locks EVERY time I fly so that I have a lock to lock my bag on the other end. When flying internationally, especially in 3rd world countries, not having a lock on your bag will most likely mean loss of articles from your bags. When TSA cuts a TSA approved lock at the USA end, it means my bags are more likely to be opened at the other end. It's sad that TSA makes such a claim that they don't cut TSA approved locks when in reality they do it all the time. Thanks for nothing. I know it is TSA because there is always a note in my bag indicating they opened it. They also make a mess out of my bag when they do it. I would much rather open my bag at the airport and show them what I have. They are extremely inconsiderate.

Submitted by CB on

But what about when TSA cuts the so-called TSA approved locks? I purposely bought them only to find out they cut those too.