Should I Lock My Luggage on International Flights?

You should definitely lock your luggage when traveling internationally as well as domestically.

But you should only use TSA-approved locks to prevent the security agents from cutting off your lock.

Did you know that a newspaper agency once called JFK Airport a “flea market for airport employees”? The reason was the large number of items getting stolen from the site. 

Over 200 items get stolen from passengers’ bags each day.

Not only that, a survey by Stratos, a famous jet charter, found that yearly, the TSA receives 8,000 reports filed by passengers for stolen items. So, it makes sense to lock your luggage the next time you travel by plane.

Thus, today, we will look at some methods to protect your checked luggage or carry-on luggage from thieves. We will also discuss TSA-approved locks and why you should use them.

Are You Allowed to Lock Your Luggage When Traveling?

As protecting your belongings is your right, nowhere in the world do airlines forbid you from locking your luggage. So, you should use locks as it lowers the chances of theft.

But, locking luggage doesn’t promise 100% safety of your stuff as we know that thieves come prepared. 

Thieves can cut metal fasteners or pop them open with a ballpoint pen, but it takes time. However, if the thieves are airline agents, time is not a problem. 

But locking your luggage when flying can discourage the thief and make him search for another bag to open.

What Type of Lock Should You Use?

Fasteners you can use on your checked bag include combination locks, keyed padlocks, and built-in suitcase locks. Most of these options allow you to enter your preferred code to open them. 

But if the TSA agents want to open your bag for additional checking, they have the right to break or cut the luggage lock to gain access. However, this happens only with fasteners not approved by the TSA.

So, to prevent damage, you should only use a TSA-approved lock. 

TSA-Approved Luggage Locks

TSA lock companies such as Master Lock and TravelMore manufacture special metal fasteners for air travel. TSA agents have master TSA keys that open these clasps (called Travel Sentry locks) if they need to screen your baggage further. 

There are TSA-approved keyed fasteners, combination locks, and even suitcases with a TSA-approved lock built-in. You can often find these in luggage stores.  

How Safe is a TSA-Approved Luggage Lock?

Travel Sentry clasps are as safe as other locks you can find on the market. The only difference is that the Travel Sentry fasteners have a unique hole that only the master key can open.

The sole purpose of Travel Sentry fasteners is that airline security doesn’t have to break them. So, you can use a combination lock, for instance, on your checked bags and have little chance of a TSA screener breaking your lock. 

The good thing about these clasps is if the TSA agent or the baggage handler somehow breaks the lock, the lock company will replace your lock free of cost.

Alternatives to TSA-Approved Luggage Locks

If you don’t want to use a lock, you can use zip ties or plastic cables. TSA can easily cut these fasteners if your suitcase needs any extra screening. 

However, as people can easily break them, cable ties do not provide as much security as metal clasps. 

But you can still use them in case the zippers malfunction or your bag opens up. Thus, they can save you the embarrassment of having to pick your clothes up in the middle of the terminal.

Another option that some travelers prefer is to cover their bags in plastic wrap. This method of securing your items often shows up in travel tips because it also keeps your bag or case from getting scratches or stains. 

Are Travel Sentry Luggage Locks Recognized in Other Countries?

As TSA (Transportation Security Administration) only works in the U.S., you might be wondering if you should use TSA locks when flying internationally. Surprisingly, many other countries have adopted the Travel Sentry System.

These countries include Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, and many more. If the country you are heading to does not appear above, check out the complete list of countries that recognize Travel Sentry fasteners.

Thus, you don’t have to worry about airline safety personnel cutting your metal clasps when traveling to or from these countries. They all have the master key to open TSA luggage locks.

What if the Country You Travel to Doesn’t Have the Master Keys to the Travel Sentry Locks?

If your destination country doesn’t have the master keys that will fit a TSA-approved lock, they’ll have to consider the lock just like any other one. The security will cut the lock to access the stuff inside.

So, when flying internationally, you should research what fasteners airport staff use in that country to prevent getting back a broken lock. 

Should You Keep Your Bags Locked at the Hotel Too?

Yes, one of the best travel tips you can find is to keep your bags locked in your hotel room. It is especially important to secure your bag if you have a shared room. 

But, even if you have a room to yourself, you can never be sure who is coming into your room while you’re gone. Thus, you should always lock your bags during either domestic or international travel to secure your valuables. 

Final Words

You should always lock your checked luggage when flying or around other people on any public transportation. Not only do airlines allow security clasps, they even encourage them. 

But you should never use any lock that the U.S. Security Administration has not approved. Otherwise, the airport security may cut the lock to gain access to your valuables.

You can also use cable ties to ensure your suitcase doesn’t open up on the moving baggage carousel. However, when using cable ties, do not forget to keep a small pair of scissors in the outside pocket of your bag.