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Locked or unlocked checked on baggage

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Mal

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I've heard people say that with the heightened security scares that you have to not lock your checked in baggage so customs / airport security can search the bags if neccessary.

However, I havn't had any probs checking in locked baggage in recent times to either NZ or europe or domestic (my recent flights), and havn't seen any official notices about it.

With events like Corby (?) the girl who (allegedly) had drugs planted in her luggage, it makes me keep wanting my baggage to be locked so I know what's happening with it. Plus, I don't like having the chance that someone can easily open and "borrow" items from my luggage.

Does anyone know what's happening here? Is it just a U.S thing, or is it yet another Urban legend?
 
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aspro2

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It's definitely not an urban legend -- for travel to/in the USA. On the one hand there is the issue of protecting your own property, on the other the increased 'need' for inspection of checked luggage. These inspections are carried out by the US Transport Security Administration www.tsa.gov. There have been cases of theft from bags (and from searches of cabin luggage too), and a lot of controversy about these searches in general.

It is possible to buy padlocks which are 'recognised' by the TSA, and for which - in theory - they have keys/tools which can open these locks without damage. However, it doesn't always help. Some people suggest using the type of plastic ties which are used in retail to keep zips closed or bundles of things from being pulled apart. They can only be removed with a knife/cutters, so your average person wouldn't be able to open the bag quickly.

As for someone planting drugs in your luggage... it would be so easy on most locked bags, except those which seal completely around every edge, that it doesn't warrant worrying about IMHO.
 

NM

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For travel to or within the USA, you are asked if your luggage is locked. If it is, you must accompany your bags to the TSA screening point and they will be x-rayes and manually searched while you watch on, then you can re-apply the lock.

However, as the bag progresses through the system, it is likely to be x-rayed again at some point, and if the x-ray agent believes further inspection is necessary, they will not hesitate to break the lock or the bag to gain access. And you have no recourse for the damage caused to the lock or the bag.

I have used plastic cable ties to lock my bag in the past, with the benefit being that I can easily tell if someone has gained access to the contents of my bag. They are easily cut off. However, make sure you have some way of cutting them off when you get to your destination as you can't carry a knife or scissors in your carry-on luggage. I usually put a small pair of side cutters in an unlocked pocket in the checked suitcase.

But since the TSA hype, I have not been locking my suitcase at all when traveling. I don't carry anything of much value in the case. My valuable things are in my carry-on (laptop PC, camera etc). The only things in my checked bag are usually clothes, and on the return journey they are dirty clothes! I may have a different attitude if I was needing to check in something of high value.
 

aspro2

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NM said:
However, make sure you have some way of cutting them off when you get to your destination as you can't carry a knife or scissors in your carry-on luggage.

A valuable point indeed! I think I'd be the type to forget the necessary tool for the other end of the journey. :roll:
 
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MetroAir

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No probs locking cases to/through the US, accompanied and x-rayed as above, only time they wanted to look again was in Hawaii and they came to the J class lounge to get the key.
 

Kiwi Flyer

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MetroAir said:
No probs locking cases to/through the US, accompanied and x-rayed as above, only time they wanted to look again was in Hawaii and they came to the J class lounge to get the key.

I think you were lucky. From personal experience and numerous reports of others (another board), passing through US you could experience any one of:

open in your presence (by baggage claim for transit or before check-in)
open not in your presence
unlock your padlock and relock
unlock your padlock, reattach but not relocked
unlock your padlock and not reattached
cut open your padlock and do/dont reattach
etc
 

Kiwifruit

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I can vouch for US as I had the locks cut off bags twice, once flying domestically and once flying internationally both times out of LAX. If you use an external padlock its no big deal as you just loose your padlock but if the locking mechanism is in the bag itself I would not risk it as they will simply break the lock permanently rendering the bag unlockable.
 
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