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  1. #1
    Senior Member deepakvrao's Avatar
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    Question regarding airport security and checked baggage

    Is it only in the US that security guys open checked bags? I think the rest of the world, you are allowed to lock your bags for check in? So, is there still a chance that security might try and open checked baggage?

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    There is always a chance that security might open checked baggage.

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    Senior Member deepakvrao's Avatar
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    How? You are allowed to lock bags for flights other than to and from the US right?

    Edit: So, you guys don't lock checked baggage at all? I worry about
    someone putting in something in my bags, like drugs. I have been locking bags on non US flights.

  4. #4
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deepakvrao View Post
    How? You are allowed to lock bags for flights other than to and from the US right?
    How?

    If what they see on the X-ray machines raises questions in their minds, or if the sniffer dogs show a great deal of interest in your bags ... they'll break the locks and open the bag.

  5. #5
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deepakvrao View Post
    Edit: So, you guys don't lock checked baggage at all? I worry about
    someone putting in something in my bags, like drugs. I have been locking bags on non US flights.
    No, I don't usually lock my bags, although my bicycle box is usually completely closed and well taped by the time I get to the check in. My bags don't leave my side until they've been checked in ... and I've often been there when my bicycle box has gone through the X-ray machine.

    You can lock your bags if you want ... but if security thinks there is something suspicious about your bags, they'll open them. On the odd occasion, my bicycle box has been opened and checked.

  6. #6
    Senior Member deepakvrao's Avatar
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    Okay. Thanks for the clarification. I better stop locking my bags then. My bike boxes have always been opened on the way back from US, but I have not had any broken locks till now on non US flights.

  7. #7
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    Don't forget that you can get TSA approved locks. They're secure (hopefully) at check in and TSA can open and then re-lock your bags if something causes them to want to take a second look.

    Also, here in Mexico they actually open and go through your luggage at the check-in counter! It really adds time to check in, so you have to time yourself right. (It's also a bit strange to have your undies being checked in front of you, but that's another topic for another day )

  8. #8
    Flying and Riding sam21fire's Avatar
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    Several years ago I bought a couple of the "best available" TSA locks. They were a joke... the quality of the locks was something I'd expect to get from the register counter at the local Stop-N-Rob. I literally broke it open using a ball point pen. The TSA part of it means they have a special key so they can open the lock w/o breaking it. The only real purpose of the lock is to let you know someone/something broke the lock and maybe opened your bag. I found that zipties are cheaper and do the same job...in fact zipties sometimes work better than TSA locks because the occasional baggage thief doesn't usually carry wire cutters or a knife so it's harder for them to get past the ziptie.

  9. #9
    Randomhead
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    my bike case came back from France with one of the locks missing, so I assume they opened it.

  10. #10
    Senior Member lucille's Avatar
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    I stopped locking my luggage a while ago. I take the bike to the oversize luggage check-in (even if it's my folder in a suitcase and not oversized at all) so I can see the bike go through the scanner and if there are any questions I'm there to answer them, and repack the bike if needed.
    Other luggage I just check-in and hope for the best. You really don't have control over what happens to it once it goes through, so there's no point worrying about it.
    If you feel better about locking your luggage then do, but be prepared that the locks might be broken, that's all.

  11. #11
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    FWIW, flying out of my home airport (BWI)... The TSA seems to open and check bikes more often that not, unless I have just been unlucky. They do not seem to be very careful how the do it either. My carry on has been thoroughly unpacked and swabbed a couple times. My checked suitcase on the other hand has never been opened by the TSA.

    I have never locked my bags, but do tape up the bike box pretty well.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    originally posted by staephj1

    I have never locked my bags, but do tape up the bike box pretty well
    I don't lock my bags either. However, on our last flight I taped everythging but the top of the bike box pretty thoroughly. Talking to the TSA guy as he inspected my bike, he said, "I'll tape this up a lot better than you did". He did! My theory was to make it easier for them to look at the bike. I honesly can't tell you if it made any difference or not, but it looked like he did a fair job of repacking it.

    Minimal taping of the top.


    TSA did a good job of taping and repacking. I only wish the baggage folks would do the same.


    Really good boxes from the Schiphol Airport, The Netherlands. Very easy to inspect
    Last edited by Doug64; 12-18-11 at 08:01 PM.

  13. #13
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lucille View Post
    I take the bike to the oversize luggage check-in (even if it's my folder in a suitcase and not oversized at all) so I can see the bike go through the scanner and if there are any questions I'm there to answer them, and repack the bike if needed.
    That's one of the advantages of arriving when the check-in is just opening ... getting there well before the rush. They'll let you look at the screen with them, and chat with you about the stuff you've packed in the box ... and cycling in general.

    If you arrive later, there are often long line ups and they'll just tell you to leave your box and go.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    The TSA seems to open and check bikes more often that not, unless I have just been unlucky. They do not seem to be very careful how the do it either.
    PHL is also like that. They have always opened my bike box. Once they were nice enough to let me re-secure the straps of my semi-hard case when they couldn't figure it out. Rank violation of their own rules but I wasn't going to complain. Another time the screener couldn't figure out how to resecure the straps (they have easy to use buckles) so he simply tied it them in knots. Fortuately there was no damage to the bike.

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    Quote Originally Posted by deepakvrao View Post
    Is it only in the US that security guys open checked bags? I think the rest of the world, you are allowed to lock your bags for check in? So, is there still a chance that security might try and open checked baggage?
    Check the instructions on the website for your airline of choice and you'll likely find the full details, but basically;

    TSA in USA and the other named airport security foiks for any other countries have a ring of master keys for most all the main brand suitcases and their normally provided locks (which are only intended to keep your belongings from accidentially getting spilled out during handling). As long as you are using one from the list, then it is ok to lock it if you desire, but that will have essentially no effect on it being opened and inspected or not. It will very, very likely be xrayed and opened and inspected no matter the country or airport of your desires. If you use a lock or brand of suitcase not on the approved list for where-ever your baggage stops or passes through, then the odds are extremely high that the bag will come back to you with a broken lock and will probably have a printout tucked inside telling you what happend and why it is your fault that your bag lock is now broken and not the airlines fault (so it will be a waste of time to file a claim).

    This is just a fact of today's life... the security guys (by whatever acronym) are simply doing their job towards keeping you safe if you are not a bad guy, and/or making your efforts fail and your life as miserable as possible as quickly as possible if you are a bad one. Any expectation of private is strickly an illusion on your part which you may choose to hold onto if it makes you feel better or more comfortable...

  16. #16
    Randomhead
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    if the flight is going to the U.S. from another country they have TSA people there to inspect luggage. It annoys a little that they are so weird about bikes. My plan is to make it so they can see everything when they open the bike box and hopefully not disturb it much. Seems to me that if you were going to hide something in a bike box, it would either be visible on xray or not at all.

  17. #17
    LET'S ROLL 1nterceptor's Avatar
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    I live in the US and always use Newark Liberty airport. A few years back,
    I noticed my lock was gone(non TSA approved) and there was an official
    note inside my luggage saying my bag was inspected. I can't recall if this
    was after departure or arrival; or where I was headed - Africa or Europe
    maybe. I think I had mostly clothes and a 17 inch laptop inside. But I have
    never experienced this in my travels to other countries; Asia, Europe -
    having security personnel open my check-in suitcase. Now I only use TSA
    approved locks and/or zip ties. Next time i travel with my folding bike; I
    hope it doesn't get opened - it's a pain getting everything just right

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUQNU2DKiWw

  18. #18
    mev
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    Flying away from Ho Chi Minh City, I had someone page me over address system. They brought me to security to ask to help open the bicycle box. Separate from that, it is my assumption that bags/boxes can and will be opened on international flights as well as US-only flights. I've definitely had my bike box opened and re-taped several times on flights within the US.

  19. #19
    Real Men Ride Ordinaries fuzz2050's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sam21fire View Post
    I found that zipties are cheaper and do the same job...in fact zipties sometimes work better than TSA locks because the occasional baggage thief doesn't usually carry wire cutters or a knife so it's harder for them to get past the ziptie.
    A big +1 to the zip tie approach, locks don't really make sense on soft sided luggage; after all, it doesn't matter how robust the lock is, the zipper and the fabric are both vulnerable. A zip tie will stop an opportunistic thief, and alert you to the fact that your bag has been tampered with. Plus it's lighter and cheaper.

  20. #20
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    Our S&S bags almost always get opened, or at least one of them, whether we are flying out of US or international airports. I flew twice to Germany this year, once with our triple and once with my single, and the bags had the inspection notices in them both ways. I flew out of PHL both times, and back from FRA once and MUC once.

    I always use zip-ties on the zippers just for peace of mind of the zipper pulls accidentally moving apart, but not for security per se.

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