The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is mandated by law to screen all baggage before it is loaded onto an aircraft. Most luggage undergoes X-ray screening, and a small percentage is subjected to a physical inspection, during which suitcases are opened and manually checked. Any potential damage to the lock or luggage is not taken into consideration. This is where a TSA-certified luggage lock proves useful…
TSA-Approved Suitcase Locks Can Be Opened without Damage
TSA-approved or accepted security locks can be identified by the red diamond or bottomless cube logo, depending on your interpretation – see the picture above. TSA personnel can use a master key to unlock these without damaging the lock, and relock it after inspecting the luggage.
If your luggage is secured with a different kind of lock, it will be cut off, and after inspection, the suitcase will be transported unlocked.
In most cases, the only way you will know that your suitcase has been inspected by the TSA is by the “Notice of Baggage Inspection” card left inside the bag.
Price of TSA Luggage Locks and a Tip on Alternatives
The cheapest TSA-accredited locks can be purchased for about $8.00, or even $3.00 on eBay. Always look for the “TSA Accepted” or “Travel Sentry Approved” label and the red diamond symbol. Some locks even include an indicator that informs you if a master key was used to open it.
However, TSA locks do not provide a complete sense of security. On YouTube, there are several videos demonstrating how TSA-certified locks can be opened using simple tools. And if someone intends to unofficially inspect your suitcase, they will invariably find a way to break the lock.
The alternative solution is simple: use cable tie-down clips. These can secure your suitcase almost as well as any lock. If you add an extra clip to your suitcase, TSA employees will have a way to secure your luggage after their inspection.