Tuesday, February 18, 2014

TSA Travel Tips Tuesday: TSA Recognized Locks


Locks
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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17 comments:

Anonymous said...

NOTE: This policy does not apply to travel with firearms in checked luggage. If you are travelling with firearms in your checked luggage, they must be unloaded and declared to the air carrier. They must then be secured in a hard-sided container with NON-TSA APPROVED locks and ONLY the owner may posses the key/combination to the locks.

Scott Heng said...

One more thing to add is to perhaps suggest finding a bag that would mitigate those issues. That would be one with no hanging locks, zipper tabs, etc. TSA and/or other handlers prefer laying bags wheels up, therefore upside down in most cases, but for good reason. However, this would explain the broken locks and/or zippers due to them hanging.

Anonymous said...

i travel with zipties and find it much easier. i have a bag of them in my outter pocket so that if tsa has to go in they can replace it with another one. so far no issues.

CK said...

What about those plastic strips that lock them selves and have to be cut?

Anonymous said...

Forget the locks. TSA has a habit of opening the zippered contents bag inside of luggage, rummage through it, then leaving it open; the contets spilling throughout the bag.

RB said...

What safeguards are in place to keep TSA and other airport employees from stealing from our poorly secured baggage since TSA requires easy access?

GSOLTSO said...

Scott Heng sez - "TSA and/or other handlers prefer laying bags wheels up, therefore upside down in most cases, but for good reason."

True, the main reason we TSA folks like the wheels up is it makes it less likely that the bag will jam in the belt joints, or wind up witting at a joint with the wheels turning and not enough friction to pull it off the joint.

Anon sez - "i travel with zipties and find it much easier."

I have seen this many times, however, if the bag alarms, the TSOs will have to cut the tie in order to clear the alarming item(s) - if the ties are not readily in evidence, the TSO may not know there are some there to resecure the bag with. We have some Missionary groups that come through with large plastic containers and they have attached an envlope/plastic pocket of some sort just inside the lid with notes asking TSA to use one of the enclosed zipties to resecure the bag with them. Any time I have seen those, we have resecured the bag/container with them.

CK sez - "What about those plastic strips that lock them selves and have to be cut?"

Same as the previous answer, they can be used, but if the TSO needs to go inside the bag in order to clear an alarm, it will have to be cut in order to gain access to the bag and item(s).

RB sez - "What safeguards are in place"

Many of the bag rooms (most of them if I remember correctly) are covered by CCTV in order to facilitate identifying problems or determining if theft actually occurred in those bag areas.

West
TSA Blog Team

RB said...

RB sez - "What safeguards are in place"

Many of the bag rooms (most of them if I remember correctly) are covered by CCTV in order to facilitate identifying problems or determining if theft actually occurred in those bag areas. 

WestTSA Blog TeamFebruary 19, 2014 at 10:55 AM
______________________
Your airport or all airports?

Once we hand off a bag to the airline how many hands does it pass through and is video surveillence present at all times?

There must be a risk or we would not be advised to not check valuable items.

This issue is clearly a security threat since anyone who can take something out of a bag could also put something in.

Seeing as how TSA refuses to screen airport workers this threat matrix is clearly a larger threat than that presented by passengers.

If TSA was serious about our safety the baggage issue would be resolved and all airport workers would get 100% non-PreCheck level screening.

Anonymous said...

I do not care that they need to open, fine with me, BUT I just wish that they would relock, I have loss 4 locks in the last 2 years.. Thanks for doing your job.

Anonymous said...

The TSA is constantly cutting off "TSA-approved" locks, rather than opening them with the key/combo.

The TSA also fails to put locks back on luggage, thereby costing the passenger money to replace the locks and putting his property in danger of being stolen by airport or other TSA employees.

Finally, the TSA fails to relock embedded locks, thereby leaving the passenger's property in danger of being stolen.

Why does the TSA have so much trouble with a basic technology that has been around for hundreds of years?

Anonymous said...

> Please note that if an officer does need to open your bag, a “Notice of Baggage Inspection” will be place in your bag.

It also provides a convenient way for officers to send adorable little notes to travelers, such as "GET YOUR FREAK ON GIRL".

Anonymous said...

I agree. I have no problem with the TSA agents opening and inspecting my luggage, but I do have a problem when they remove my approved TSA locks and do not replace them after the inspection. I have lost at least 4 TSA approved locks over the past 2 years. The airline nor TSA claimed responsibility each time.

lth said...

Thank you for this information!
It is really helpful to have an idea of what goes on behind the scenes with our personal belongings.
I appreciated the photo re the locks and explanation regarding the belts.
I only use the locks when we are leaving our luggage within a hotel room or at their service desk or at anytime when we have to leave our luggage unattended by ourselves. Locking the bags, for checked baggage on the flight, seems like a big nuisance--for everyone involved. I feel leaving the bags free for access is not as important as the flight safety of all passengers and am glad to "help out".

Anonymous said...

actually when you mentioned the comments about zipper pulls and bags I had mine damaged several times where I had to buy items to make it good for me to open. Also had little notes saying a checked in pocket knife was not allowed in the bags...that knife was checked not hand carried and was inportant for me to perform my job at my work site.

It also gives TSA and Bag men a chance to steal our items like electronics they wont let us carry in our carry on bags..

Anonymous said...

I don't have an issue with using TSA locks and having bags inspected, but it would be nice if they would put things back where they were found such as placing breakable items back in the middle of the bag between the clothes rather than on top of a soft-sided bag so that they can be broken by the baggage handlers. Is there any policy on how to repack an inspected bag?

Anonymous said...

" the locks may have to be cut" directly contradicts "TSA is careful to not damage any personal belongings". The lock is my personal belonging, and cutting it damages it.

Yet more TSA lies and spin.

Anonymous said...

Why do you not address the fact that tsa employees are cutting off tsa-approved locks instead of using keys?

Why do you not address the fact that tsa employees intentionally break, damage, and steal items from checked-in luggage?

West, you claim there are cameras recording baggage openings. How often are these recordings reviewed? Do you honestly think your employees don't know where the cameras are so they hide their unethical and criminal behavior?