Andrew Harmon



The TSA Took My Luggage Security Away

by Alexis Armstrong

 “The message boards say that I should duct tape my bags shut to keep people from stealing things.”

A client recently posed this situation to me, and she was expressing a concern that we all have: How secure is my checked luggage once it’s out of my hands?

I have personal experience with luggage being lost and with locked bags being slit open…it’s a terrible feeling. So what should you do? To get the full story, I went to two sources. I contacted a friend at Holloway Travel Outfitters, and I contacted a local representative of the Transportation Security Administration and here’s what I found out. 

According to a Customer Support Assistant in the Philadelphia office of The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), they are required by law to screen all property, including baggage that is loaded on board commercial passenger aircraft. To ensure the security of the traveling public, it is sometimes necessary for their Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) to conduct hand inspections of checked bags.  If it is determined that a bag needs additional inspection, a TSO will open your bag and search it, by hand.  If you have a TSA-Approved Luggage Lock, they’ll unlock it and search your belongings. The TSOs receive training on how to properly inspect passenger bags and are required to “exercise great care” during the inspection, so that the contents of the bag aren’t affected. If your bag has been opened, the TSO will place a Notice of Inspection to let you know that your bag was searched, and what to do if you have a complaint about the inspection.

The reality is that the TSA has a relatively short relationship with your checked bag. Once checked baggage has been screened and cleared, airlines are responsible for transporting it to its final destination.

Then I spoke to Sarah at Holloway Travel Outfitters. In her four years working at the shop and helping people place orders by phone and on their website, she offered her take on the situation.

“I talk to customers about packing and luggage all day and I’ve only heard a few people say that their belongings were taken out of their luggage. But we do hear complaints of people spending up to $10.00 on a good quality TSA Approved Lock, only to pick up their bags on the other end with no lock on it. It seems that the TSO’s will unlock a bag, search it by hand, and then either put the lock back on without re-locking it, or just leave it off entirely. So there is no way to guarantee that your bag will be re-locked after it is inspected.”

I am of the thought that taping bags shut with duct tape is more of a sign that there is something inside that bag that needs to be looked at. The duct tape says “Hey! Look at me! I’m full of valuable and/or illegal items!”

So what’s the best approach?

This is why I promote the carry-on approach to travel. Holloway Travel Outfitters offer classes and online videos on how to pack for trips of up to two months with just a carry-on sized bag.

If you’re going on a trip that is just too long to use a carry-on bag, be sure to put on ALL your valuables (you shouldn’t really be traveling with valuables anyway) and your medications in your carry-on bag, and just check your clothing.  It also makes valuable sense to have trip insurance that covers lost and/or damaged luggage. Just be sure to leave room to bring back lots of souvenirs!


Alexis Armstrong, Destination Specialist
World Travel Specialists
Office - 866-280-1938 x743
Cell - 267-760-1103

The world is a book. Those who do not travel read only a page. - St. Augustine


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