Can I Still Lock Luggage When I Fly?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Under rules by the US Transit Security Administration (TSA), you can still lock your luggage — it won’t be turned away if comes locked to the airport — but there is a slight hitch. If you luggage is locked with a lock that the TSA can’t open, they may very well cut it off to inspect the interior of your bags. There is a way around this, and it’s a very simple one to pursue if you would like to make sure that you not only maintain the security of your luggage, but also arrive at the end of your trip with your locks intact.

Be certain to purchase TSA certified locks.
Be certain to purchase TSA certified locks.

In order to still lock luggage when you fly, you need to purchase locks certified by the TSA. In regular stores, these will often come with a little flame logo, but most also state that they are TSA certified. Each of these special locks can be opened with TSA keys. If inspectors want to open a piece of baggage, they just use their skeleton key to open the lock and look. That way, they don’t have to mess with cutting off the locks.

Luggage can still be locked within certain guidelines.
Luggage can still be locked within certain guidelines.

Since the September 11 attacks, there have been many restrictions added to flying in the US, including those requiring people to show ID before they board a plane. As long as you keep posted on these restrictions, and especially check websites from the airlines you choose to use, you can usually comply with these requirements with relatively minimal effort. It’s always important to check with TSA regulations, since these can and do change fairly regularly. So even if you’ve flown recently, save yourself time by checking ahead to be sure you’re fully prepared for your next flight and compliant with TSA rules.

Use TSA approved locks so that your luggage can be easily inspected.
Use TSA approved locks so that your luggage can be easily inspected.

For many passengers, it is a relief to know they can still lock their luggage when they fly, and you may even find a few baggage locks at airports. It’s less expensive to purchase these in advance at luggage, department, or general stores, and you may be able to get deals if you buy more than one. You’ll note that most stores in airports mark up their products, and prices are often highest when you’re looking at something that is in high demand. On the other hand, replacing any lock can be expensive, so it may be worth it to pay the price on a lock so you can still lock your luggage when you fly. This will usually assure that your luggage will remain locked when it arrives, even if the contents have been checked by the TSA en route to its destination.

Normal luggage locks may be cut off by TSA agents.
Normal luggage locks may be cut off by TSA agents.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


@anon308905: The TSA is an agency of the U.S. government, and only has authority within the United States. Their regulations do not apply anywhere else. Every country has its own airline security procedures, so you need to check with the country you're flying into or out of.


What is the TSA like in the UK or Cyprus. say going from Cyprus to UK and back? Can the TSA legally check your luggage without your consent and knowledge? I've had my luggage one time checked coming back from Cyprus by UK Security and i didn't know it. I found out when in the bag my prescription pills were opened as if someone thought they were illegal drugs. They didn't leave a note, I don't think.

I'm just wondering what are TSA regulations in the UK. Are they allowed to check your bags without you physically being there?


This is just one of the numerous regulations we have to put up with for our security even though it's frustrating.

I do want to be able to lock my luggage when traveling, especially when I'm flying abroad. But at the same time, I want to make sure that all the luggage brought in by passengers are safe.

We have no choice but to put up with it. Either don't lock your luggage, or buy TSA locks.


@anon138493-- I don't think you can use luggage combination locks. I doubt that TSA can open them so they'll have to break off your lock and it will become unusable. Can you leave the built in lock unlocked?


I wasn't aware that there are TSA approved locks for luggage now. I know that airport personnel open and check luggage regularly, so I just don't put a lock on.

Thankfully, I haven't had any problems with theft. But I guess I should look into getting TSA approved locks for my next flight.

By the way, are those locks sold separately from luggage?


@Ted41 - The rules about flying have changed a lot in the last few years. Every time I fly, I check the TSA website to see if they've changed any of the rules about what you can bring on the plane etc.

I find it saves me time at the airport if I know what I'm supposed to do regarding liquids and other things like that.


I don't fly very often, so I had no idea the TSA could cut the lock off your suitcase. However, last time I flew, my suitcase was chosen for a random search and they cut my Samsonite luggage lock off!

I'm glad to know there is another solution than just not locking my bag.


@Azuza - That's a good point. Still, I think some people might want to lock their luggage anyway. I have a few friends that worry about everything, so I think getting TSA approved luggage locks could put a few peoples minds at ease.


That's very interesting. I haven't flown with locked luggage in years. For some reason I thought you had to leave your suitcase unlocked. I've never heard of this TSA luggage lock before.

I don't think I will buy one though, because I don't fly to often. Instead, I just put clothes and toiletries in my suitcase, and anything valuable, I take in my carry on bag. So I'm not too worried about anything in my suitcase anyway.


What good is a TSA lock when they are the ones most likely to steal your stuff?

If you fly with firearms, you *have* to lock the luggage with a non-TSA lock which only you can open. If they decide they need to open it, you will be called to open it.

Don't have a firearm. Buy a $25 dollar flare gun and put that in the luggage. It is considered a firearm by the BATF. That way you will know and be present if they open luggage.


@Anon138493: Unless the luggage is TSA-approved, which means they can open it, you probably need to stick with TSA-approved separate luggage locks, and not use the built-in locks on your luggage. Otherwise, they might not let you fly with it.


How to use luggage with built in combination lock?

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