I have a big travel bag which I will use as checked-in baggage. It has pockets with zipper. I don't plan to put anything in them and thinking to just leave them unlocked. Would that be safe?

Am I being paranoid thinking that what if someone puts something suspicious in it after checking it. Is it normal to leave the pockets unlocked?

  • 3
    Where are you travelling from/through/to?
    – jcaron
    Dec 23, 2022 at 22:28
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    You shouldn't lock checked luggage. If security decides to take a look at the insides (which they often do), they will have to break the locks.
    – Hilmar
    Dec 24, 2022 at 3:44
  • 1
    @Hilmar Yes, and no. Most travel locks are specific TSA-approved locks which most airport security departments worldwide will have matching keys for. But this again raises the point that using travel locks is pointless in the first place since all the keys are publicly available anyway! Dec 24, 2022 at 15:35
  • 1
    Luggage locks are a scam anyway — they are utterly ineffective at keeping dishonest people out of your luggage.
    – Dúthomhas
    Dec 24, 2022 at 20:14
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    @DavidWheatley They are still reasonably effective at preventing opportunistic thefts by otherwise unprepared thieves. Whether that matters or not is up to the individual. Dec 24, 2022 at 22:47

2 Answers 2


Don't worry about it: smugglers planting drugs in the bags of complete strangers at the airport is largely a myth. It's a bad idea for the smugglers in many, many ways, starting at the planting end:

  • Baggage handling areas are very busy places, there's little time to open up bags and lots of witnesses around. Bags "falling off the conveyor" because the X-ray guys spotted valuables? Sure, this actually has happened at some airports. Somebody taking a bag that's the right shape and going to the right destination, opening it up, planting drugs and putting it right back in fast enough that the victim can still catch their flight? That would be pretty challenging.
  • Airports also have really, really extensive CCTV coverage, so anything they do would be recorded and could easily be pulled up by investigators.

The biggest problem, though, is how do the smugglers get their drugs back on arrival?

  • They can't sneak the drugs out between the aircraft and baggage claim, because the whole point is to get them through Customs.
  • Baggage claim is always before Customs, so no point stealing them back here either, and there's witnesses and cameras up the wazoo here too.
  • After Customs while still at the airport seems like the least bad option, but how exactly do they get the bags off you if you're physically lugging them?
  • And afterwards it's too late: they'll have no idea where the unwitting courier is going, how they'll get there, how many other people are present, etc etc.

And yes, people try to play the "I had no idea the drugs were there, guv'nor!" card all the time. Some of these people are willing couriers that are straight up lying, others were duped into carrying a package/suitcase without knowing its contents, still others had drugs hidden in their own bags by a boyfriend/relative/etc. But if there's any proven cases of drugs being snuck in by airport staff, I'd like to hear about it!

  • 1
    "They can't sneak the drugs out between the aircraft and baggage claim, because the whole point is to get them through Customs." Airport staff don't go through customs, and there's plenty of non-camera places like inside the belly of the aircraft. The danger would be the drugs aren't picked up by the baggage unloader, and you're stuck holding them at customs. Another technique could be to redirect the drugs onto a domestic flight, even as an air cargo package, since workers aren't dedicated to either. Criminals are smart, particularly organized drug smuggling rings.
    – user71659
    Dec 25, 2022 at 2:21
  • @user71659 Airports typically have tight security screening for staff, particularly those working in sensitive areas like baggage handling. Dec 25, 2022 at 10:30
  • No they don't. Just visit the general aviation section of your local airport. Further, somebody carrying a bag of drugs could easily walk through a metal detector, necessarily they aren't allowed to screen for anything but weapons.
    – user71659
    Dec 26, 2022 at 22:49
  • @user71659 GA is completely different from commercial international flights. Dec 26, 2022 at 23:49
  • Same airport. Drive across the tarmac in your service vehicle. That's the point. Your assumption that airport security is airtight is completely unfounded.
    – user71659
    Dec 27, 2022 at 0:11

Even a locked zipper will not prevent unsavory characters from putting contraband into your bag.

In all my travel (mostly North-American and Europe) nothing nefarious ever happened and most of my luggage have external pockets.

You could wrap your luggage in plastic wrap, a service that most airport offer.

  • 3
    Which security services absolutely hate. The only time we used such a service the bag ended up arriving without the wrap and with box cutter tears.
    – jcaron
    Dec 24, 2022 at 7:11

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