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How luggage security locks work

Updated March 23, 2017

Prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, all you had to do was use regular old-fashioned padlocks with keys or combination padlocks to secure your luggage. You could also buy bags that came with combination locks. However because of security concerns after 9/11, luggage is now not only screened but sometimes opened. That means that if you use any of the above methods, your bag may get damaged in the process of it being opened by security personnel. Except of course you are checking in early and are lucky enough to have your bags screened in front of you before you lock them. But this does not happen at every airport. To get around this there are now special luggage security locks that can be opened by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials without having to cut open the locks.

Prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, all you had to do was use regular old-fashioned padlocks with keys or combination padlocks to secure your luggage. You could also buy bags that came with combination locks. However because of security concerns after 9/11, luggage is now not only screened but sometimes opened. That means that if you use any of the above methods, your bag may get damaged in the process of it being opened by security personnel. Except of course you are checking in early and are lucky enough to have your bags screened in front of you before you lock them. But this does not happen at every airport. To get around this there are now special luggage security locks that can be opened by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials without having to cut open the locks.

The Fundamentals

TSA-recognised luggage security locks have a special symbol easily identified by TSA officials. Even though baggage is usually screened electronically, in the event that a TSA official needs to open your bag, once he sees the easily recognisable sign, he is able to open the lock using a master key without damaging your lock or your bag. The manufacturers of these locks have worked with the TSA on this. Most of the locks (padlocks, cable locks or luggage straps) are combination locks but also have key slots. The combination portion allows you to use the lock while TSA officials can insert their master keys into the key slot and open your bag if need be.

Where to Find Luggage Security Locks

Safe Skies and Travel Sentry are two of the main manufacturers produce TSA-recognised luggage locks. Each company has a special symbol recognised by TSA and other security personnel responsible for luggage screening in some parts of the world. It is a red diamond for Travel Sentry and a red torch for Safe Skies. Travel Sentry locks can be found in many retails stores around the world. You can purchase Safe Skies locks from their website and they ship to anywhere in the world. Shipping to anywhere in the continental U.S. is free.

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About the Author

Faith O has covered politics and general news in Washington DC, Chicago and Maryland. Her writing has appeared in the Associated Press, Prince George's Sentinel, Northwest Indiana Times, Chicago Defender and Daily Southtown, among others. She has a Masters of Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School and a Bachelor's degree from Hampshire College in Amherst.