To lock or not to lock

Screening Checkpoint Boston LoganWith summer fast approaching many families are starting to plan their vacation. Often it involves air travel and the question comes up on what to do about locking the suitcases. Nobody really wants to leave their belongings unprotected but on the other hand air travel regulations have to be followed and that means that bags have to be accessible to searches.

The heightened air travel security measures established by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) after September 11, 2001 require that all luggage has to be screened before it is allowed to be loaded onto a commercial aircraft (checked and carry-on). TSA employees electronically scan bags without having to open them but if a piece of luggage is chosen for a random manual search the TSA screeners have the authority to open the bag.

So that travelers can secure their baggage the TSA has mandated that travelers must use approved luggage locks. These “TSA locks” allow the screeners to open the bag with a master key. If the lock is not a TSA lock and the screener can’t open the bag any other way the lock will be cut. Which locks are approved? Any lock with the Travel Sentry identifying mark (red diamond) is accepted by the TSA and may be opened by the TSA using the master key. Some luggage has TSA locks built in, you’ll recognize these suitcases also by the red diamond on the lock.

If you use a TSA approved lock how will you know if your suitcase was opened? For one you’ll find a “Notice of Baggage Inspection” in your bag, put there by a TSA officer. And on some locks a gauge switches from red to green. For checked luggage it makes sense to get the TSA locks, for carry-on bags you can probably use any luggage lock since you’ll be able to unlock the bag in the presence of the screener if it’s required.

Have a bunch of non-TSA locks? Don’t throw them away just yet. You can use them when you’re not traveling by plane to keep your suitcases locked in the hotel or if you’re on a cruise. Of course, if you have valuables such as jewelry you’ll want to put those in the hotel safe during your stay.

Jim is a CT licensed Locksmith with over 30 years experience. He repairs locks, rekeys locks and installs new locks in Connecticut homes. Email Jim Arsenault or call him at 860-678-9797.

Image by U.S. Federal Government (Transportation Security Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons