Have you ever wondered exactly how safe your luggage is when you travel on a plane? Apart from a lost luggage nightmare, many people fear that someone will try to break into their suitcase. But locks aren’t always a good idea. In a viral TikTok video, a TSA agent explains why you shouldn’t always travel with a combination lock on your luggage.
TSA Agent Shows How Pen-to-Zipper Technique Opens Luggage Zippers in Seconds
The video was reposted to @geenaanac’s TikTok page and has garnered over 5.4 million views. The TSA agent clearly shows how a lock on your luggage is pretty much useless in some cases.
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“If you’re ever traveling, make sure you guys are aware how security systems in your bag can be breached,” says the TSA worker. “ A lot of people I see travel with locks on their suitcases, special combinations. But with just a pen, you are actually able to breach a suitcase’s security.”
He then takes a pen and runs it along the full length of the suitcase zipper.
“A pen to the zipper technique has been around for tons of years,” the agent continued. “I want to show you guys this, so you know what to look out for.”
After the TSA employee runs the pen around the suitcase zipper, the luggage pops open. Further, he was using an ordinary, plastic, ball point pen.
“The best kinds of zippers have covers over them,” he explained. “That’s an extra added layer of security for your luggage when you’re traveling for the holidays or for any occasion that may be coming up. But make sure that you guys are weary of this.”
He Also May Have Just Given Luggage Thieves a Tutorial
Many viewers swore by cling wrapping their luggage.
“Now clingwrap/film in the airport makes sense….”
“Always clingwrap your bags. Most airports have this as a service, but you can do it at home!”
However, one person gave an anecdote about their friend’s luggage being rewrapped during travel.
“An [sic] re wrapped it . A friend wrote all over the wrap when it arrived clean wrapper all around.”
Some people were peeved that the TSA worker just told millions of people how to discreetly break into other people’s luggage.
“So basically you just told a bunch of people how to break into my suitcase.”
“New fear unlocked.”
“Why are u giving tutorials sir.”
“Literally what I was gonna say.”
“Thanks! Will be opening bags now.”
Other people gave their own advice, such as placing security threads and using tape.
If You Do Travel With a Lock, Make Sure It’s TSA-Approved
Despite this somewhat anxiety-inducing pen-to-zipper tutorial / warning, there may be some instances when you prefer to use a lock. The TSA recommends using TSA-approved locks, which have a slot for a master key. While using those locks won’t prevent someone from unzipping or snipping your luggage open, they might give you peace of mind.
Further, sometimes luggage zippers can be damaged from conveyer belts or during the transportation process. It’s not always a result of a sneaky thief trying to steal your jewelry or your tidy whiteys.
Keep Your Valuables in Your Carry-On
One great piece of advice is just to avoid keeping anything valuable in your checked luggage. If you have electronics, jewelry, medication, or anything else that you’re worried about someone taking, keep it with you in your carry-ons. It’s best to separate these kinds of items and keep them in clear zip loc bags so that they’re easy to take out and put back when passing through airport security. The TSA specifically recommends keeping your carry-on luggage organized and may even instruct passengers to rearrange their items if they dump out a jumbled mess onto the conveyer belt scanner.
Lastly, using a lock is never going to prevent TSA from inspecting your luggage if they feel compelled to do so. If you use a lock that they cannot open and they have to break it, they will leave a note inside your luggage along with the broken lock. In fact, the TSA is supposed to leave a “Notice of Inspection” any time they open your checked luggage to look inside when you’re not around.
Zipperless Luggage Is Available
Luggage designers have significantly improved consumer options over the years. If you’re considering purchasing something that can’t be opened with a pen, Travel and Leisure has an updated list of zipperless suitcases. They recommend the Samsonite S’Cure because it has a 3-point locking system. All of these zipperless luggage pieces use latches that can still be opened by TSA agents, either by universal code or key.