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Locking Luggage on entering the US

Travel Forums North America Locking Luggage on entering the US

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1. Posted by chalkers (Full Member 51 posts) 11y

Hey All,

Im flying into LA later this year from Sydney, Australia, and i have been told two different stories about locking luggage bound for the US.

If my bag/s are locked and there is something that looks suspicious inside ( in their mind - i never would especially after all the Bali stuff) but do they have the right in the US to rip the bag open?

So i guess my question is, is it ok/safe to lock ur bags when flying to the US?

Cheers,
Chalkers

2. Posted by georgep (Respected Member 201 posts) 11y

If they want to they will open your bag no matter what.

I think it's even not allowed any more to lock your bags if you fly to the us (not sure do)

But i know from personal experince that they cut locks and straps and put a note in the bag stating they did with the broke lock :(

So i keep sowing my strap back toghter and to atleast make sure the bag doesn't accidently open. But i already needed to repair it after it was cut by us customs twice.

Greetings,
George

3. Posted by Cupcake (Travel Guru 8468 posts) 11y

Yep, George is right. They can and will open any bag they want. They at least now, have a ring of master keys at every table...if your bag is a major brand they don't have to destroy your lock, some companys even sell 'TSA' approved locks now. They used to tell you to unlock your bags at check-in, but they don't anymore. Good luck! :)

4. Posted by georgep (Respected Member 201 posts) 11y

If i was you i would not go for one of those tsa approved lock. There are lots of story's of people locks where still just cut.

And also the mayor brands advise most times to keep your suitcase unlocked. Because sometimes they just want it open quick

5. Posted by julieoz (Full Member 95 posts) 11y

i was flying in and around america 4 months ago and would lock my bag, if they wanted to open your bag to look in it they would ask you to unlock it because it would get scanned while you were still there.

so we did not find it to be a problem having different locks.

i would rather risk that than NOT locking your bag.

6. Posted by larondey (Full Member 105 posts) 11y

buy a 'TSA-approved' lock for your bag. they're available for about $12.

7. Posted by meerola (Full Member 32 posts) 11y

I had no trouble with locked suitcases when entering the US (didn't have much in the bags anyway) but when leaving, I had locked the suitcases with non-TSA-approved locks, which had been cut and everything was a mess inside. They never called us to come and open the suitcases, and when inquiring about what happened, the airline folks told us they don't have time for that anymore, but cut the locks instead. There was a note in both bags explaining what had happened.

The curious thing was that our Samsonite suitcases had not been opened, but I suppose it was because there were no foodstuffs inside. The other two no-name suitcases contained candy, crisps, cereals, you name it, which is probably why they wanted to take a peek inside.

So if you do lock your suitcase, get a TSA approved lock and prepare yourself mentally for loss of lock and a broken bag of crumbled Cheetos all over your clothes anyway. ;)

8. Posted by georgep (Respected Member 201 posts) 11y

Yes they seem to like to know what kind of food you take out of the country. We took some coffee once (vacum sealed) and also this was opend to see if it was real coffee. And while my bags are opend in the us several times they never asked me to open them. So don't expect them to take the time took look for you and let you open it.

9. Posted by Travel100 (Travel Guru 1556 posts) 11y

Quoting meerola

I had no trouble with locked suitcases when entering the US (didn't have much in the bags anyway) but when leaving, I had locked the suitcases with non-TSA-approved locks, which had been cut and everything was a mess inside. They never called us to come and open the suitcases, and when inquiring about what happened, the airline folks told us they don't have time for that anymore, but cut the locks instead. There was a note in both bags explaining what had happened.

The curious thing was that our Samsonite suitcases had not been opened, but I suppose it was because there were no foodstuffs inside. The other two no-name suitcases contained candy, crisps, cereals, you name it, which is probably why they wanted to take a peek inside.

So if you do lock your suitcase, get a TSA approved lock and prepare yourself mentally for loss of lock and a broken bag of crumbled Cheetos all over your clothes anyway. ;)

In other countries they'll call you're name and go unlock the suitcase for them. I have a combo lock so I either have to leave it unlocked when flying out of a US airport or worry about then destroying my suitcase (since they'd ruin it by breaking the built in lock). But now after reading this story:

http://www.phaseloop.com/foreignprisoners/news-indonesia04.html

It's a real dilemma! In the past I've left them unlocked when flying out of a US airport (and got the note inside the suitcase that they had checked), but now I'm NOT SO SURE what I'll do next time (after reading about the poor Australian girl facing death in Bali).

10. Posted by Cupcake (Travel Guru 8468 posts) 11y

TSA runs 100% of all checked baggage through a type of x-ray machine(varies with the airports)...if there are any opaque items or anything that they can't determine what it is...the bag WILL be opened. If it is a slow day (usually in smaller airports) they will randomly select bags to hand search. In the really small airports (usually 14 flights or less a day)in the U.S....the passanger is usually standing right there and can observe TSA going through their bag. Either way, once it has passed TSA it is in each individual airlines hands. (And the airlines do background checks on their employees, but American pays 10 dollars and hour, and Midwest Express, Northwest..etc..only pay minimum wage.) Sometimes you get what you pay for. Fact is..you never know when an unscrupulous person may have access to your bag....but the odds ARE in your favor;)