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My suitcase got stuck in Singapore and arrived a day later which is no issue. The cling foil I had it wrapped in was removed which I found surprising but no real issue either. What did surprise me was the fact that TSA / Customs had 'cut' my lock open even though it has one of the standard locks that should have been opened by a master key as explained here.

enter image description here

I emailed them already but thought I ask the community here if there is anything I can do here to get compensated as I find this very upsetting. It was a brand new suitcase and not only will closing it be very hard moving forward, I can also not use the lock at all anymore.

  • 4
    Yes I did, the usual notification only though. I emailed them now but it will take about 10 business days until I will receive a reply. – Jane M Nov 10 '16 at 5:22
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    One possibility is that the lock was cut e.g. by security at Singapore before putting an unaccompanied suitcase on a plane. I would have expected them to have a TSA key and put in a note. – Patricia Shanahan Nov 10 '16 at 9:16
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    @PatriciaShanahan my experience is that non-TSA inspectors don't seem to put notes inside. They just open, root around, then close again. – CMaster Nov 10 '16 at 16:00
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    Why would a TSA agent go through the work to cut the zipper slider, when they have a key. It would take far more work to cut the thicker metal of the sliders than to use their key. I would vote for someone somewhere else along the line, Singapore officials, petty thieves at various airports the bag transited. – user13044 Nov 10 '16 at 21:16
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    @Tom - maybe they used the master key and it didn't work, they aren't going to spend much time wiggling their master key around to get it to work before they resort to the wire cutters. I've had plenty of keyed luggage locks that have stopped working, so it doesn't seem unrealistic that the TSA key sometimes fails to work as well. – Johnny Nov 10 '16 at 22:04
23

If you have travel insurance, you can file a claim for damaged baggage. You should look at a reasonable option to fully repair the damage, which may include buying a brand new suitcase if there is no reasonable way to fix the problem with the lock. You then file a claim for the expenses made to your travel insurance company. They can then say that you must first try to recover the costs from the TSA or the airline, but your insurance will then pay the difference between the total costs and what you have been able to get from the TSA or the airline.

68

Note (from Yale):

TSA Security Officers inspect more than 2 million pieces of baggage every day. It is faster and easier for them to open your Travel Sentry locks using their special Travel Sentry tools than it is for them to cut or break open a lock. However, it is rare but possible, that the TSA may have to cut open a Travel Sentry lock if it has been damaged or malfunctioning in some way. Should this occur, TSA is not liable for damage to your lock.

My emboldening.

If a TSA source is preferred:

TSA is not liable for damage caused to locked bags that must be opened for security purposes.

And in case of any doubt, you won't receive 'compensation' for this.

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    I imagine he can still sue them in a court for damages; after all, they are paying for broken luggage: usatoday.com/story/news/2015/07/02/tsa-damage-tops-3m/29353815 – George Y. Nov 10 '16 at 16:42
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    If you obtain a duplicate master (this isn't hard from what I hear) and demonstrate it works you can then bring the case. Merely demonstrating you can obtain a duplicate master will shatter the TSA's position in any case. – Joshua Nov 10 '16 at 17:41
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    @pnuts: they would have to prove it was "necessary in the course of duty" a) to open this bag and b) to break the lock. And do this to the jury, which "loves" TSA. An uphill battle, I'd say. – George Y. Nov 11 '16 at 0:55
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    Note that writing we are not liable for damage on your website does not make you automatically not liable. – Federico Poloni Nov 11 '16 at 13:49
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    @Blackbeagle because the TSA left a tag inside the luggage that they checked it – user2813274 Nov 12 '16 at 1:48
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The only online mechanism for filing claims is through the claims page on the TSA website.

You may file a claim if you are injured or your property is lost or damaged during the screening process. Screening at certain airports is performed by private companies and not TSA.

However, don't anticipate a speedy resolution:

Please allow up to six months to fully investigate your claim. Claims that require investigation by law enforcement require additional processing time.

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    Second this. In the early days they failed to reattach two of our locks. They did pay without a squawk but it still took months. – Loren Pechtel Nov 11 '16 at 12:55
15

You can try your airline, especially if you have status. TSA simply has stolen my hasps (or caused them to become lost by not closing them back) and United has compensated me. Of course that was just $25 for the two hasps so that was not a big deal.

The following is just speculation from me: these hasps force them to use the master keys, even with bolt cutters cutting through a 1/4" steel hasp is not easy. So they opened it and then made sure no other screener needs to do such a thing again. I learned my lesson and use zip ties to close my bags now. The scenario is completely tilted towards cutting: it's faster (master keys can be very fiddly) and they are not held responsible for pretty much anything.

Edit because of comments: this is the hasp and it is for Pelican cases to keep luggage handlers out. They can damage it but getting into the case, nope:

enter image description here

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    I think your answer would be improved if you clarified what you meant by "status." Are you talking about status like a social influencer or status as a frequent flier, or something else. Also I'd be interested to see a picture of these hasps you're talking about. – Erik Nov 10 '16 at 17:36
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    @Erik Status in the context of an airline generally means status in their frequent flyer program. They often do more to work with and keep the business of loyal frequent flyers than they would for customers who fly only occasionally (and then usually just pick whatever airlines is cheapest on their search engine of choice). Here's an example of the Delta program as an example, it starts with 'Silver Medallion' status: delta.com/content/www/en_US/skymiles/medallion-program/… – Sean Nov 10 '16 at 17:43
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    I didn't want to advertise but if you google 1/4" hasp tsa it's the first result, so: tamperseal.com/… . Cut that. And yes, I thought of frequent flier status. – chx Nov 10 '16 at 17:45
  • @Sean that makes good sense. – Erik Nov 10 '16 at 17:46
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    @chx wow I must be having a slow morning. When you said hasp I pictured some kind of buckle or gate hasp like this harborfreight.com/3-inch-safety-hasp-and-staple-95561.html – Erik Nov 10 '16 at 17:50
8

Your case is brand new? If so, it probably has a warranty. Easiest thing would be to contact Antler, say your TSA lock was defective and had to be broken open, and they will send you a new one. It will be a lot less hassle than your insurance company (whose excess will eat up most of your compensation) or dealing with the TSA, the airport, or the airline.

3

According to this page on usatoday.com: Lost, stolen, broken: TSA pays millions for bag claims, USA TODAY investigation finds

"TSA officials say the agency accepts claims for damage to locks, and they concede that agents sometimes break locks to inspect bags."

So, I would file a claim with TSA.

The only problem I see is that unless the note that TSA left in your bag indicates that they damaged the bag to gain entry, you don't actually know who damaged your bag. But...

  1. It's not obvious from the picture but it's probably obvious looking at the bag that the zipper tabs were intentionally cut, rather than somehow being accidentally damaged by interaction with airport equipment.
  2. There may be surveillance video of the inspection process that might show the bag being damaged by the TSA.

One suggestion from @Joshua that I like is to try to obtain a duplicate master key and demonstrate whether it works, or not. If it works, you have some proof TSA inappropriately damaged your bag. If it doesn't work, (and it does work on other bags), it indicates the lock is defective and you have a good reason to file a warranty claim with the manufacturer of the bag/lock.

Others have said something like: "Why would the TSA agent take the extra effort to damage the bag to gain entry, rather than to use their key?"

It is not unreasonable that the TSA agent: Improperly used their key, used the wrong key, couldn't find their key, couldn't be bothered to waste their time to obtain the correct key, and used their trusty fallback "universal key".

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