Travel

Traveling via US

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Jul 17, 2008
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Traveling via US

Do they always cut your locks to your check-in luggage? I passed twice through US (stop over to another destination) and both times they cut my locks on my check-in luggage.

Do you have the same experience? I have now a luggage that has it's own lock (using 3 numbers) and i REALLY don't want that to be damaged because of US idiotic practices. What's the best way to go about it, leave it unlocked? How do you proceed? I feel so naked knowing anyone who handles my luggage can roam through it. I'd have to problem if there was a system that only security would be able to open it, but I don't know of any way to talk with them during my stop over, other than some TSA approved locks which I don't have. This has ever happened to me when I'm unfortunate enough to transit via US.
21 replies
Deal Expert
Jan 27, 2006
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Basically, if you travel through the US, you are subject to US laws while transiting through and that will include any security issues at the points of entry and departure.

Its been my experience after travelling heavily (ie 15+ trips through US airports) for a number of years, due to the volume of bags, the TSA will only target bags that meet certain criteria - ie a tip for a particular flight or flights from a particular location or something is triggered in their x-ray scanners. You really can't do anything about the first two examples but the last one (x-ray scanner), you do have some control over. They will typically look for anything that might pique their interest - ie a mess of wires, a large area that the x-ray can't see into,... - so keep that kind of stuff out of your checked luggage.
Deal Expert
Aug 22, 2006
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Messerschmitt wrote: TSA approved locks which I don't have.
Why not?
Not that these are secure since someone leaked the keys so any idiot can make one.

Also a bag isn't secure unless you have zipper retainers or it's a hard (not hard sized) bag.
If you shove a pen in the zipper you can zip it open then rezip it with the zipper.

The zipper retainer stops this, but it's usually a dial based combination which is probably also not secure depending on the tolerances.
A hard case will also stop this, but they're extremely heavy plus you have to lock and/or tamper seal it.

For something cheap and tamper proof (zipper thing notwithstanding) I sometimes ziptie it in a unique color.

This doesn't help if TSA inspects it after cutting and then someone else decides to go in after though.
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Feb 19, 2010
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Been traveling through and to the US for decades and never lock the luggage. If the TSA wants to sift through my dirty underwear (usually only on the return trip :lol: ) that is left on top for them, then enjoy!
Deal Fanatic
Feb 15, 2006
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Messerschmitt wrote: I have now a luggage that has it's own lock (using 3 numbers) and i REALLY don't want that to be damaged because of US idiotic practices.
It's idiotic to think the US practice is idiotic. You want to go to the US (or most countries in the world), you need to allow your bags to be opened/inspected, or don't go. Simple.
Deal Guru
Dec 20, 2003
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Ottawa
death_hawk wrote: Why not?
Not that these are secure since someone leaked the keys so any idiot can make one.

Also a bag isn't secure unless you have zipper retainers or it's a hard (not hard sized) bag.
If you shove a pen in the zipper you can zip it open then rezip it with the zipper.
Exactly this.... just get TSA approved locks, if they make you feel better. Although in reality, you don't know if it's TSA cutting those locks on your bag, or some random person, knowing that you'll just assume it's TSA.

I guess that I fly so much I know there's no such thing as "privacy" in my bag, especially for some of the countries that I travel to. If it's valuable, I put it in my carry-on. AFAIK only the US actually drops the "Your bag was inspected" papers in the bag if they open it up, I assume other countries just do it without letting us know. Some US airports are higher than others - I probably have around 10-15 "TSA Inspected" forms from SFO over the years, compared to EWR/IAD, with very few if any.

I also assume that their seeing people using non-TSA approved locks probably raises a red flag immediately, possibly mandating a search ;)

I treat it the same way I do my person - as soon as my bag enters the baggage system, or I walk through a security scanner, I have approved both my bag and body to be searched if they so decide. The only other option available to avoid searches? Don't fly!
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Oct 5, 2004
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I don't usually lock and I've met people who had their locks cut even those were TSA approved. Rumor is, they will open it if it's easy and have the lock on hand. If they are busy and no lock in their hands( eg 1 lock used by many) then they will just cut it to speed up the process.

I would recommend using a zip tie instead! Get 50 of them for $2-3 and they will last you for many years.
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Apr 5, 2013
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keenland
Conquistador wrote: Been traveling through and to the US for decades and never lock the luggage. If the TSA wants to sift through my dirty underwear (usually only on the return trip :lol: ) that is left on top for them, then enjoy!
Arrgh wrote: It's idiotic to think the US practice is idiotic. You want to go to the US (or most countries in the world), you need to allow your bags to be opened/inspected, or don't go. Simple.
+1 this..

if you dont like their practice..don't go there ...their rules for their game...who are you to decide on this??..you fly or travel...you accept the rules or stay home....first time travelling??...don't be so entitled
Deal Expert
Aug 22, 2006
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Absolute wrote: Although in reality, you don't know if it's TSA cutting those locks on your bag, or some random person, knowing that you'll just assume it's TSA.
Yup.
Hell even with TSA locks, now that the keys were leaked, anyone can open those too.
I don't know if the notice is secure in some way (watermarked or security feature or if it's just plain paper) but if it's the latter I could print a bunch of those too and rob you blind.
You'd then blame the TSA.
I also assume that their seeing people using non-TSA approved locks probably raises a red flag immediately, possibly mandating a search ;)
Probably. If it were me I'd 100% cut it because I'm an ass.
I actually made the mistake of checking my briefcase once with a non TSA lock. It was forced open.
I was also robbed. This was before I knew not to put money in a checked bag.
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Oct 2, 2005
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demi2004 wrote: I don't usually lock and I've met people who had their locks cut even those were TSA approved. Rumor is, they will open it if it's easy and have the lock on hand. If they are busy and no lock in their hands( eg 1 lock used by many) then they will just cut it to speed up the process.

I would recommend using a zip tie instead! Get 50 of them for $2-3 and they will last you for many years.
Just curious, how do you remove the zip tie when you get there? You cant carry anything sharp to cut it off in carry on.
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Aug 22, 2006
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RAINMAN0 wrote: Just curious, how do you remove the zip tie when you get there? You cant carry anything sharp to cut it off in carry on.
I put scissors in an external pocket of my checked.
Do you not have anything else to do rather than argue with strangers on the internet
Nope. That's why I'm on the internet arguing with strangers. If I had anything better to do I'd probably be doing it.
Deal Expert
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Oct 5, 2008
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just use a TSA approved lock or don't bother locking it at all
Deal Addict
Jan 11, 2004
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Curious, doesn't CATSA inspect checked bags too? I've never received a "we looked at your bag" note from them yet.
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Aug 18, 2005
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dealguy2 wrote: Curious, doesn't CATSA inspect checked bags too? I've never received a "we looked at your bag" note from them yet.
Yes they do, but they don't open all bags. I was travelling for business, and another guy in my group received one of those notes because he had various hardware and parts in his bag needed for the job.
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Oct 3, 2011
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OTTAWA
I just use twist ties to keep the zippers from being snagged and pulled open. If people want your shit they will take the whole bag. If someone wants to inspect my dirty underwear, then they don't have to cut it open.
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Sep 6, 2002
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You shouldn’t have valuables in your checked so not sure what your worried about. If you’re coming in from central/South America bags are checked frequently especially in mia/fll

I wouldn’t lock it. If you’re really concerned get your bag wrapped in plastic as an alternative. Most airports have this service.

As for zip ties. Either use am external pocket. Or take a nail file or nail clippers in you’re carry on.
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Oct 23, 2017
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RAINMAN0 wrote: Just curious, how do you remove the zip tie when you get there? You cant carry anything sharp to cut it off in carry on.
I use the toenail clipper that I carry in my personal item. I usually have ties on the outside zipper pockets of my bags. I don't put anything valuable in there but don't want anything to fall out during handling.
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Oct 23, 2017
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RAINMAN0 wrote: Just curious, how do you remove the zip tie when you get there? You cant carry anything sharp to cut it off in carry on.
I use the toenail clipper that I carry in my personal item. I usually have ties on the outside zipper pockets of my bags. I don't put anything valuable in there but don't want anything to fall out during handling.

While locks are no deterrent to serious airport thieves, I figure they discourage hotel staff etc. from peeking in while your luggage is in your room. The highest risk is when you return home with purchases made abroad, and you can't fit all that stuff into your carry-on.

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