Dear TSA

I’m really tired of the TSA going through my luggage — and repacking it.

TSA Inspection NoteTo say I’ve been doing a lot of traveling this past year would be to make a huge understatement. I’ve been on more than 20 airline legs since September and expect to be on at least a few more before I finally settle down in my new Washington home.

Because I travel with Penny the Tiny Dog and she counts as one of my carryon pieces of luggage, I usually have to check a bag. And what I’ve discovered is that the TSA doesn’t just look in random pieces of checked luggage. It looks in all checked luggage.

How do I know this? Well, the inspectors put a note like the one you see here in each piece of luggage they open. I have found one of these in every single bag I’ve checked.

And yes, I do sometimes lock my bag. Fortunately, my lock is TSA-friendly, so it isn’t broken and can be used again and again.

In all honesty, I wouldn’t mind the TSA going through my luggage if they’d just leave it packed the way I packed it. In many instances, my luggage includes breakable items, such as a laptop, portable hard disk, and/or bottles of wine. I pack very carefully to ensure that breakables are surrounded by soft items like clothing. This protects it from shocks and hard surfaces the bag might encounter during handling by the airlines — and the TSA.

Unfortunately, the TSA doesn’t seem to care how carefully I packed. It appears that they sometimes unpack my bag and then repack it. I haven’t noticed anything missing, but I have noticed shock-sensitive items packed right up against the edge of my soft luggage, where it could be damaged if the bag is thrown or dropped.

And I don’t like that.

What can I do? Nothing — except to not put breakables in my luggage. Or not check luggage. Or not travel by air.

I can’t help thinking that the TSA’s baggage inspections are just another dog and pony show — as intrusive and ineffective as its backscatter scanners. The Notice of Baggage Inspection cards I find after every flight are just a reminder that big brother is watching. Whether their inspections are actually necessary or effective remains to be seen.

4 thoughts on “Dear TSA

  1. Hi Maria — putting liquids in your luggage is a sure-fire way to have your bag checked. Liquids AND electronics? Doubly so. When I check a bag, it’s just the usual stuff, and it never gets audited. When I brought maple syrup to my parents via checked luggage, my checked bag was checked by TSA. The inspection cards give you the assurance that it was TSA in your luggage and not some random person.

    Not defending them… that’s just my experience.

    • Unfortunately, when I travel with Penny I pretty much have to check luggage. I’d rather let TSA deal with liquids and laptops than lug them through the airport and deal with them at the security checkpoint. So I guess I’ll just have to deal with them going through my bags all the time. It’s just unfortunate that they can’t leave the bag packed the way I packed it. One of these days, something is going to break and I’m going to get very pissed off.

  2. Commercial air travel just gets worse. Each year, I think “it can’t get worse than this”, and I’m wrong every year. People in power fly by private jet, so they don’t appreciate how awful it is.

What do you think?