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Have TSA changed procedures - luggage checks?

Lewes, United...
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Have TSA changed procedures - luggage checks?

I have posted on this forum previously of my unhappy encounters with TSA luggage checkers, at whose hands I have lost several minor items, including hiking poles twice! I am sufficiently savvy to know to never leave valuable items in checked bags, wherever in the world we head. However, on each of these previous occasions when we have had our checked bags opened, at least TSA have extended the courtesy of leaving a note to advise that the bag was opened by them, and they have also taken the trouble to leave most items as they found them and replace the cable ties we always use to keep the zippers on our checked luggage closed.

I cannot claim to be a frequent US visitor, but we visit a couple of times most years so are fairly familiar with how things work, both for international flights and domestic ones. We returned from our most recent trip a few days ago. We used to travel more frequently; nowadays our trips are mostly just for leisure reasons are are less frequent but for much, much longer and we always have checked luggage to cater to the varied needs of our extended trips.

This trip we had 3 out of our 4 checked items opened, which does seem to be the pattern of our experiences, but this time things were different. Firstly, no note was left to inform us that it was TSA who had cut the cable ties and opened the bags. And I know this means it's entirely possible that the bags could have been opened by other interested bodies, including thieves, and even more than once along the whole process at more than one airport, but there's little evidence to support this.

However, why I feel it's likely that it was TSA who opened the bags once again was that so far nothing appears to be missing at all and the way the bags were disturbed, suggests the bags were opened to seek out items that possibly looked suspicious from x-ray or security screening equipment. A long umbrella had moved from the bottom to the top of one bag. The thing that really bugged me, though, was that a glass bottle of maple syrup was disturbed. I had carefully wrapped it in 3 layers of plastic to try and contain any sticky mess, should the bottle break, then rolled it in a sweatshirt and placed it in the middle of the contents of a case. The plastic bags had been cut through with some blade to reach the contents quickly and then the empty bags and the glass bottle put back on top of everything and the bag closed up again. At least, mercifully, my bottle of syrup arrived home intact, despite my careful efforts to protect it being in vain, having travelled all the way protected from any rough handling by no more than the thickness of canvas luggage.

So, have TSA stopped using notes to advise passengers that it was they who opened the checked luggage?

Do they no longer replace cable ties?

Park City, Utah
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for Utah, Winter Sports
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1. Re: Have TSA changed procedures - luggage checks?

Can't answer on cable ties, but TSA definitely still leaving notes. Can't remember a recent flight where I didn't have one. I've found the rate to be pretty close to 100%. The only unusual thing that I've noticed lately is that I had a small item that was actually moved from one side pouch on a bag to another on a trip this past weekend, which I did find unusual. There was a note.

While I'm sure it happens, I've not had anything stolen from a bag in about 30 years.

Good luck.

Elk Rapids, Michigan
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2. Re: Have TSA changed procedures - luggage checks?

"TSA luggage checkers, at whose hands I have lost several minor items"

I am sure you have 100% proof that is who took your items and not any of the dozens of other hands that may have touched your bags right?

Edited: 16 April 2014, 14:45
Durham, United...
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3. Re: Have TSA changed procedures - luggage checks?

I have had only a few bags opened by TSA, but each time the TSA have left a note. I have TSA type locks rather than cable ties and several also display a red dot if opened by a TSA key. My guess is that they don't replace cable ties, just as they did not/do not replace non-TSA locks they have to break to check the bag.

Sadly, there are other persons who seek to access baggage. Recent arrests at LAX, historic arrests at MIA, LHR. I recall that a nickname for Heathrow years ago was 'Thiefrow'. Late last year in Houston I saw a news report on a TSA employee being arrested for stealing I-Phones from passengers at the TSA security line, so it is not just your checked bag that is at risk.

Palmetto, Florida
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4. Re: Have TSA changed procedures - luggage checks?

I still get notes, but no, they dont replace cable ties ever, I don't think.

Atlanta, Georgia
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5. Re: Have TSA changed procedures - luggage checks?

"I know this means it's entirely possible that the bags could have been opened by other interested bodies"

Then why do did you single out TSA in the title of this thread and in your opening post? A great many people handle your luggage as it makes its way through the system - no reason to suspect TSA above anyone else unless you have evidence (which you should have posted if you did).

The bottom line is - don't pack anything in checked luggage that you are not willing to have lost, broken, or stolen. Do not pack valuables or unreplacable items. Do not assume that no one will open your luggage, and do not assume that TSA locks and cable ties are tamper-proof or secure (they are neither).

-JimG

Lewes, United...
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6. Re: Have TSA changed procedures - luggage checks?

Why I singled out TSA is that anybody interested in my luggage is likely to have removed the items that interested them. Nothing was removed, but the luggage was opened and items removed and replaced or moved around inside the bags. An opportunistic thief would have grabbed what they wanted, not stirred up the contents of my bags without taking anything and then just zipped them back up again, would be my expectation.

However, as nobody else seems to have had cable ties replaced, or not recently, and it seems TSA continue to leave notes, then I have to assume somebody else was looking for specific items of value, failed to find them and just had a stir up of my luggage contents out of frustration. Oh, and while this could well have happened at 'Thiefrow' rather than at IAD, the luggage came through surprisingly fast at T5.

I know TSA removed and failed to replace at least one of the hiking poles on one of the previous occasions I lost one as they (eventually) admitted this fact. I was unable to retrieve it as I didn't pass through the airport where it was removed again and they refused to return the item to me by other means.

We used to use TSA approved locks, but those were either cut off, damaged or not relocked, hence moving to cable ties - and up to now, cable ties had been replaced.

Oh, and yes, Capt, I do my try and keep an eye on my hand baggage as it goes through the screening machines while I'm checked over, which is why I hang back on shoving my stuff onto the conveyors if I notice a delay in the body checks.

I'm well aware lots of others get access to luggage; I also know even if the cable ties had been replaced, there are other ways of undoing zippers (with any old pen, for example) and that other kinds of tampering happens, and know the risks of items breaking. Nothing in my luggage was irreplaceable or of great value.

SWT

Bangkok
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7. Re: Have TSA changed procedures - luggage checks?

Hi,

I suspect the TSA simply didn't put one in, or there was a temporary out-of-stock case. I've been "downstairs" where these take place.. Usually it's in a special secured area that is covered by CCTV's.. After a piece is opened the agent(s) close it up and insert that white card and timestamps it first.

I'm sure there's been cases where the card perhaps fell out blew, or otherwise didn't get into the bag before it was closed again... and I'm sure there's been cases where a screening station just didn't have any cards for whatever reason.

Travel Safe,

jack.
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8. Re: Have TSA changed procedures - luggage checks?

I've never received a note.

I don't know if one of my checked bags has been opened by TSA. If so, they were subtle about it.

Guildford, England
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9. Re: Have TSA changed procedures - luggage checks?

Hiking poles and maple syrup would flag the bag for a hand search. My bag is always opened when I bring back peanut butter. I can understand your concern about the maple syrup - that could cause a horrible mess. I would suggest also wrapping it in a zip plastic bag so hopefully they would put it back in there.

10. Re: Have TSA changed procedures - luggage checks?

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