Flying in the US, my bag was opened by TSA, and TSA didn't relock it. Now, whatever combo I enter, the bag remains unlocked.

It's a combo lock with a TSA compliant keyhole. TSA didn't break the lock, as there are no tool marks and it still latches/unlatches properly. Photo:


How do I get my bag to lock again?

  • 5
    To clarify (as @MichealHampton doesn't say in his answer) - it appears that they unlocked your case with a key, and then didn't relock it again.
    – CMaster
    Jul 12, 2016 at 9:16
  • 7
    At least they closed the bag back. I've had security "forget" to zip my bag closed, and found a few items on their own on the conveyor belt... Jul 12, 2016 at 11:09
  • 7
    Is the airport far away? You can go back and request for them to re-lock it.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jul 12, 2016 at 12:30
  • 4
    Have you tried following the bag's instructions for resetting the combination? Maybe whatever they did messed that up. Jul 12, 2016 at 13:36
  • 3
    You can just print your own keys. Jul 13, 2016 at 20:11

5 Answers 5


Not a solution for the current problem, but for future reference it may be good to keep in mind: As others have pointed out, TSA-compliant locks are a joke and a waste of money. They are not secure and do not serve the purpose (any more) that you would traditionally expect from a lock. Too many non-TSA people can also open them (besides possible criminal minds at the TSA). Better not to rely on them or use them.

I have traveled to the US only once under the TSA regime, but have a US-based travel agent friend that travels in and out more often. The protocol I and her family (as well as many of her clients) follow with luggage is the following:

  1. Use inexpensive/scruffy-looking luggage (it attracts less attention as possibly containing valuables.) My favorite and preferred is a chinese mass-produced black non-label nylon fabric with zipper sport bag with a hard floor and wheels on the back edge - it has traveled all over Europe and to the US as well as locally. I also like the fact that it is more flexible packing-wise than the hard clamshell-type luggage.
  2. "Lock" luggage using cable ties (contributes to the "nothing valuable here" look, can be easily opened by the TSA if needed, but discourages quick/surreptitious (opportunistic) pilfering. As a bonus, you can detect if it has been opened.)
  3. Provide some extra cable ties topmost inside each bag (for the convenience of the TSA when they deem it worth their trouble to reseal your luggage. You need to remember exactly how many you provided, additionally you could provide all different colors. If one is missing, this is additional confirmation that your bag was opened.)
  4. Take all valuables and items not easily replaced in carry-on luggage. Deem everything in your checked-in as expendable and make contingency plans in advance for the case when something of it gets lost (or delayed, another headache with a similar solution). E.g. take a change of clothes, small quantities of toiletries, and all medication in carry-on. Obviously, the bulk of your clothes and shoes are checked-in - it would be nice to keep them but they can be replaced in a pinch.
  5. Pack your luggage so that it attracts less attention from the TSA when put through a scanner, to minimize the need for opening and visual inspection (or pilfering by the presumed bad apple). For instance they recommend to pack shoes uppermost, where they can be inspected easier on the scanner as not containing whatever they are looking for. Also, pills are bound to attract attention (possible drugs) so rather have them in carry-on where they can be taken out for inspection if needed. If you are on important chronic meds, always take them as carry-on, as even delayed luggage will mean a break in your medication schedule - and one is not always able to obtain replacements in a different country.

In our limited experience, so far so good, no losses yet.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Mark Mayo
    Jul 14, 2016 at 6:20
  • Regarding #4: if concerned about size/weight of carry-on, remember that any city that has an airport also has stores that sell just about anything you might need.
    – WGroleau
    Jan 13, 2020 at 18:50

Get your own key for the TSA lock. Unfortunately for the traveling public in the US, these locks are notoriously insecure. Keys for them can be had for $10 or less on eBay. (example)

  • 29
    If you own a 3D printer, you can even print them yourself. 3D models are available on github. And TSA does not seem to care at all.
    – maddin45
    Jul 12, 2016 at 8:12
  • 2
    @Kik Fair point. Just keep anyone who looks like this away from fast food and we can generalize that to other professions too. Jul 12, 2016 at 20:29
  • 1
    This whole thread has strayed a long way from the question. Jul 13, 2016 at 13:10
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    @Nzall Just because only 3 out of 100,000 claimed losses doesn't mean that that's the actual level of loss. When we found a TSA note and the lack of a bag of macadamia nuts did we file a complaint? Why bother? It was nearly a month later before we could confirm they weren't accidentally left behind, by then what's the point of squawking? And they would simply point fingers anyway. Jul 13, 2016 at 20:35
  • I'm sure that within a week after they were invented, master keys were available on the black market. (Long before the 3D printer thing)
    – WGroleau
    Jan 13, 2020 at 18:58

Just had the same problem - bag could not be locked as all combinations even the right one opened the bag. Simply grabbed a small screw driver, inserted it in the key lock and turned it back to the 'red dot' on lock. Now bag can be locked and unlocked via the code. By the Way, I could not turn the lock back again to the open postion....all good now!

  • 2
    Just did this and worked like a charm. Note: I could turn the key from "unlocked" to the "red dot" using a small screwdriver but I couldn't turn it the other way.
    – Matt Gaunt
    Mar 27, 2019 at 4:18
  • 1
    Flat screwdriver worked! Just had to play with it and all of a sudden the lock jumped back to its original position. I can now lock my bag again!
    – Eskapp
    Aug 27, 2019 at 1:09
  • Thanks for the tip! I had something similar happen with the combination lock built in to a Samsonite suitcase, and a flat head screwdriver worked, after fiddling around with it for a bit. Nov 10, 2019 at 5:19

We stopped by at a tsa office at the airport and asked a “nice” agent to help you with their special key. They can fix it in seconds if you meet a “nice” agent. Good luck!


This happened to me, too. The TSA agent at the airport managed to lock it. However, he told me that these locks are meant to lock back automatically when the key is removed in the open position. He also said that if their key is moved to the locked position, the key cannot be removed without damaging the lock. He could get the lock “unstuck”, so now the lock works. If this happens again, I’ll have to take it to the repair shop...

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