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I am sick and tired of airlines doing damage to my suitcases, telling me wheels, handles, and zippers are "only cosmetic" and then, adding insult to injury, making me sign a waiver before they'll accept the same suitcase that they damaged on a later trip.

The suitcases are not cheap, but the cost of shipping them back repeatedly for warranty claims is not worth it.

So what are some preventative measures I can take?

Sometimes I ask for them to be tagged as fragile. But then I have to sign the waiver. Seems to defeat the point. Or maybe not, since they rarely take responsibility for damage anyway.

Sometimes I ask for my suitcase to be wrapped in one of those large plastic bags. But I often fly Southwest, which either doesn't provide them, or doesn't like to provide them.

  • If I use my own contractors trash bag but it is opaque black instead of clear, will the agent or handlers or TSA throw a fit?

  • Or if I reuse a bag from another airline, would that encourage the airline to lose my suitcase?

The saran wrap service isn't that common at U.S. airports. While I could wrap it myself, TSA will just cut it off to search the bag.

Sometimes I use a cardboard box as disposable luggage. Still have to sign the waiver for the contents, because according to the agent they are "not properly packed." This works as a second checked piece if my first checked piece has wheels and is sturdy enough to use as a dolly.

  • If I put my suitcase in a cardboard box, or constructed a cardboard jacket to wrap around the suitcase, would I still have to sign the waiver?

  • Could I depend on TSA to tape it back up?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Giorgio, Ali Awan, Henning Makholm, Rory Alsop, gmauch Dec 9 '18 at 1:21

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    I feel your pain however this is more of a rant and answers will be opinion based. The truth is regardless of whether your luggage is cheap or $4000 Luis Vuitton, TSA doesn’t give a rats behind, unfortunately. – user 56513 Dec 7 '18 at 14:03
  • By the same logic, whether my luggage is a cardboard box or Louis Vuitton, is TSA responsible for putting it back together after inspection in the same way they received it? If my suitcase arrives on the conveyor belt without its cardboard jacket, then the airline has lost a piece of my property, have they not? I'm interested in experience-based answers (e.g., "I tried to use a black contractors bag once, and the agent made me take it off"), as well as insight into airline rules and TSA procedures. – wemily Dec 7 '18 at 14:24
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    Well good luck trying to hold TSA accountable. I was only trying to help. – user 56513 Dec 7 '18 at 14:26
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    My experience with the clear wrapping is that about the only time I used it, some security service decided to open the suitcase and used a knife to remove the wrapping, “accidentally” tearing through the case. Happened to be an expensive suitcase, of course. – jcaron Dec 8 '18 at 17:08
  • Unfortunately disallowed from adding this as an answer: Reduce TSA agents' opportunity to meddle with your luggage by strategically packing items that could be detonators (electronics) away from items with a density similar to explosives (liquids, gels, soft plastics, books) source. TSA still conducts random searches, but you'll avoid having your suitcase opened for the searches that are necessary when the CT scanner flags it. – wemily Dec 9 '18 at 9:17
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There's a rather novel approach you could try to cause TSA to be lighter on your luggage, and that is fly with a firearm. Even a starter pistol will work for this.

The general idea behind the strategy is that the TSA isn't allowed to open up luggage with a firearm unless you are present. This means that your bag will get searched by TSA before it gets sent with the other luggage to be loaded into the aircraft. Furthermore, luggage types that aren't normally allowed (hard cases, non-TSA approved locks) are allowed if there's a "firearm" in the luggage.

There are quite a few anecdotes around the web of people who use this trick claiming that their bags after being checked by TSA are given extra attention to prevent being lost, though there isn't any public acknowledgment by TSA, and individual airports/officers don't always follow their own required policies with firearms. The theory is logical though: They wouldn't want to lose track of a suitcase full of firearms at an airport.

If you do decide to try this trick, be sure to follow the TSA's rules with packing firearms very carefully.

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    Theory is different from practice. – user71659 Dec 7 '18 at 20:56
  • @user71659 quite true, and thank you very much for the link. I've updated my answer to further clarify that it is exactly that, a theory, and included your link within the answer. – laken Dec 7 '18 at 21:07
  • Hm, I've heard of this, but thought it more of a measure to prevent loss as opposed to damage. (Loss concerns me less, because it is harder for the airline to weasel out of providing compensation.) Though maybe there is utility in being able to supervise TSA, and ensure that they put the cover back on a suitcase. I also wasn't aware that hard cases (like a Pelican case?) are normally disallowed, thanks for that. So on one hand, the airline will make you sign a waiver for anything they deem too flimsy, and on the other hand TSA doesn't allow cases they deem too durable. – wemily Dec 8 '18 at 12:08

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