TSA-approved locks: Use them or not?

Old Apr 19, 08, 4:35 pm
  #1  
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TSA-approved locks: Use them or not?

I am going to travel to the USA with checked baggage for the first time since 9/11 and I wonder what opinions are about TSA-approved locks are. How often does the TSA actually open and search your bags?

The major disadvantage of a TSA-approved lock seems to be that if items get stolen from your baggage and the lock indicates the TSA opened it, the airline will probably point the finger at the TSA and refuse any compensation. As I understand it, it is nearly impossible to claim damage from the TSA.

Plus I am quite certain that professional baggage thieves have picks that will unlock every TSA-approved lock. The mechanism doesn't look very sophisticated, all you need is to dissect a few locks and make the corresponding keys.

The only advantage seems to be that you can reuse the lock after the TSA opens it.

Am I correct here? If I lock the baggage with a cheap combination lock without a TSA backdoor, will the TSA cut off the lock and will my baggage still arrive on time?

How often does the TSA actually open checked bags?

Thanks for any information!
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Old Apr 19, 08, 6:34 pm
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It would probably be a good idea to buy several of them to replace the ones the TSA cuts off anyway.
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Old Apr 19, 08, 7:44 pm
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rjh
 
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The TSA approved locks that I've seen all seem to offer very weak protection.

If there are TSA approved locks with reasonable strength, I'd be grateful for a pointer.
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Old Apr 19, 08, 8:35 pm
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I simply use color-coded zip-ties. They're easy to cut, less easy to replace than common white ones, and keep honest people honest, which is about all you can expect from a luggage lock.
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Old Apr 19, 08, 9:11 pm
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Originally Posted by UAL Traveler View Post
I simply use color-coded zip-ties. They're easy to cut, less easy to replace than common white ones, and keep honest people honest, which is about all you can expect from a luggage lock.
I used zip ties for the first time when I went internationally. The TSA cut the zip tie, checked the bag, inserted their little calling card and then put their own zip tie back on. I'm beginning to think that zip ties are the way to go.
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Old Apr 19, 08, 9:41 pm
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I use TSA locks from Brookstone and Target and in the 20 or so flights my bag has only been searched once and my locks were never cut off.
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Old Apr 19, 08, 10:22 pm
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I definitely recommend the zip ties over the TSA locks. I tried the TSA locks a few times and found that my bags ALWAYS got opened and searched when I locked them with TSA locks. (I guess the screeners thought I must have had something really nice in there if I bothered to lock.)

With the zip ties, I've never had them searched.

Now, with the zip ties, it's important to have something with which to cut OFF the ties when you arrive at your destination! (and it must be accessible from the outside of the bag!) In the post-9/11 world, it's not a smart idea to go around an airport asking for a pair of sharp scissors in order to open your bag and dig out the jacket you will need before going outside!



Of course, the best option: don't check any bags at all!
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Old Apr 20, 08, 3:01 am
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Remember, small scissors are permitted in your carry-ons now!
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Old Apr 20, 08, 6:19 am
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Originally Posted by oneofthosepeopleyouloveto hate View Post
Remember, small scissors are permitted in your carry-ons now!
oneofthosepeopleyoulovetohate and other TSO's

are these considered acceptable, they would cut zip ties quite easily

http://www.lindstromtools.com/tools_cutters_80.htm
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Old Apr 20, 08, 6:22 am
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I have lost 3 TSA approved locks (Victorinox) when TSA opened my bags. Obviously they are attractive and may have been appropriated for better use
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Old Apr 20, 08, 6:41 am
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Originally Posted by rjh View Post
The TSA approved locks that I've seen all seem to offer very weak protection.

If there are TSA approved locks with reasonable strength, I'd be grateful for a pointer.
That is true. Many of the TSA approved locks are cheap, but with a little searching you can find some decent ones. You usually get what you're willing to pay for.

The locks I am using now came from eBay and eBags. I have a set made by Eagle that are fairly sturdy. I am very pleased with them. I also have a set from by Masterlock. They are decent but not great. I can't remember the brand of the locks I bought from eBags but they are also very good.

There is little advantage in having a good TSA approved lock if some idiot decides to cut it anyway. The main advantage is restricting baggage handers, airline employees, etc from having easy access to your bag. TSA are the only ones (supposedly) with a key. There should be no problem if the baggage screeners are honest and actually doing their jobs. Then again, we are far from such a "perfect" world.

I have yet to receive a cut lock but I've retrieved bags with the TSA approved locks missing.
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Old Apr 20, 08, 6:52 am
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Island, the item you posted the link to would be considered a tool, so it would be OK in your carry-on provided the overall length was 7" or less.

Scissors are OK if the blades are less than 4" long, measured from the fulcrum. (There is no overall length requirement pertaining to scissors.)
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Old Apr 20, 08, 7:01 am
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Originally Posted by oneofthosepeopleyouloveto hate View Post
Island, the item you posted the link to would be considered a tool, so it would be OK in your carry-on provided the overall length was 7" or less.

Scissors are OK if the blades are less than 4" long, measured from the fulcrum. (There is no overall length requirement pertaining to scissors.)
Thanks, they are less than 5 inches long and the blades are about 1/2 inch. Is there a more detailed permitted tool list somewhere? This is out of work related curiosity, I make jewelry, and have tools, including ones that I have made or modified, that are irreplaceable.
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Old Apr 20, 08, 7:10 am
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Cockpitvisit - I think you are being unfair to the TSA with your comment "...it is nearly impossible to claim damage from the TSA".

In my experience this is patently false. I myself have submitted two claims during these past years without a problem. The difficulty I am having is collecting on the claims.

Stay the curse!
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Old Apr 20, 08, 9:30 am
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Originally Posted by ESpen36 View Post
Now, with the zip ties, it's important to have something with which to cut OFF the ties when you arrive at your destination! (and it must be accessible from the outside of the bag!)
I ran into this problem once, and solved it with a pencil. Slip the pencil through the loop (no need to snug the tie all the way down when securing the bag) and spin the pencil until the plastic yields and breaks. FYI, slipping two pencils (or pens or similar) through the loop, and then holding one stationary when you spin the other, will reduce the stress on the bag attachment points.
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