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We travel to the US a lot to see family and one of the things we always have on our suitcases is a padlock. Now, whether these are any deterrent to our cases being stolen or riffled through I don't really think so but I think they provide the thief a little bit more of an obstacle to get into our case and perhaps they will look at another one before ours. Also, I like to have a padlock on my case to hold the zips together and make sure they do not come apart when the bag is in transit. Locks have come a long way since the old style padlocks that you used to get free when you bought a suitcase, the old gold ones that came with a few keys that were flimsy and everybody had so they were no use really anyway.
Nowadays you can get some really heavy duty padlocks with combinations that you set just for you so only you know the combination and no one else although you do have to remember them every time you fly which sometimes is a bit difficult to recall unless you use the same numbers all the time for different things.
Anyway, TSA stands for (The United States) Transport Security Administration and these are special locks that allow airport security personnel in the US the ability to unlock you lock with the use of a special key I believe, take a look in your case if they need to and then re-lock it so you bag is secure once more. If you look at the bottom of this paddock there is a space for a key to fit into so I believe this is how they open up the padlock and relock it again. I'm not too sure but I believe in some places these are the required lock nd nothing else will be adhered to. For example, we've come across a zealous security person before who basically nearly just stuck a knife in our case and ripped it to gain access to the bag so a TSA lock is now a must for us whenever we go to the US. For example, when you fly out of Los Angeles for example you leave you bags and then they go to security without you being there so I think the locks definitely work well in this situation.
The locks are not very expensive which is nice. I buy mine from John Lewis, I have one for each case I have and they cost £5.99 each. They have a three number combination that you can set yourself when you first get the lock, it's quite simple to do and there are instructions to follow. The opening of the padlock is quite large so if you have some big zips to attach it to it will stretch over all of them. The lock is small enough though to be unobtrusive and holds up well to all the travel it has done for us especially.
A must if you travel to the US.