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Broken up

September 02, 2007|Catharine Hamm

Question: Returning to Burbank from a trip to Albuquerque, I found a note inside my bag when I got home that said my suitcase had been inspected. The note also said that because my suitcase was locked, they had to break the lock. I had a $20 security lock that the Transportation Security Administration approved and recommended for use to make it easier for them to inspect luggage. The lock is destroyed. Any suggestions?

Eivor Nilsson



Answer: Yes. Don't check your bags. And if you do check your bags, don't lock them.

But if you must lock them, make sure you buy the kind of lock that's jake with the TSA; the lock, packaging or both should say so clearly. And whatever you do, don't call those locks "TSA-recommended."

"The locks are TSA-approved, not recommended," TSA representative Nico Melendez said in an e-mail.

OK, so noted. But why would an approved lock that should have been easy to open get clipped? "Occasionally, we have experienced problems with the master keys/combinations, and from time to time, we have to cut one of those locks," Melendez said.

It is possible that the lock was defective; there are about 35 million floating around out there, so some are bound to be bad, although Nilsson told me later she had used it before without problem.

But we'll go with the bad-lock theory. So what should you do? "I would check with the company," Melendez said.

Quickly, now, what company manufactured your lock?

Oh, and you saved the lock, after the TSA tucked it back in your bag, didn't you? And you have the receipt? And you saved the notification that TSA had searched your bag?


You may not get to pass security and collect your $20, because that's what some companies require. (Check out the TSA website,, to learn what some of the companies want, although David Tropp, inventor of Safe Skies locks says his company's return policy is lenient. You also can get some insight on how locks simply disappear, thanks to airport conveyor belts, by looking at /damagedlocks.shtm.)

Most important, remember that carrying something of value in baggage these days is a lot like lending money: If you can't afford to lose it, don't do it.

But sometimes it's unavoidable. Just ask Joel Blumenthal. Last winter, he wanted to take his skis with him. He put them in a case secured with a TSA-recognized lock.

It was cut off.

Blumenthal's lock wasn't defective, and he's certain his lock met TSA requirements. And he should know. He's president of Travel Sentry.

You might recognize that name from the TSA website. Along with Safe Skies (, Travel Sentry ( is listed right under this wording: "Not sure where to get a compatible lock? Try these websites."


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