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TSA Destroyed My Bag During Security Check! Will They Compensate Me for My Damaged Bag?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

During my trip to Sweden (before I scored my $6,000 bump) I had a little problem with the TSA in South Bend Airport.

Just before for boarding — and I mean JUST before (they were calling for those who need assistance to board) — a somewhat skittish TSA agent approached my wife and asked “Are you Lisa de Lambert“?!

Now, I don’t know if you have ever had a TSA person walk up to you at the gate. But in my thousands of flights, I have never had that happen to me.

So it kinda freaked me out, to be completely honest. But rather than being nervous, I should have been annoyed.


Ouch! I am not sure if you can see it clearly in either of the above two shots, but what the local TSA had done was to slice a rather large gash into my bag when they went to cut off the zip-tie that I had used to hold the zipper closed on my checked back. Let me show you a better shot to illustrate:

Yep. That slice basically destroyed my bag. There really is no way to fix this razor cut. Plus, the bag was a cheap one (only paid just over $30 for it anyway).

The sheepish TSA man stammered through how sorry he was for the damage. He handed us a stack of papers while trying to explain page by page what we have to do as they continue to call for boarding of our CRJ200 to Detroit. I was much more concerned about getting on the flight than damage to this cheap bag!

We told the man not to worry as we have years of experience of what Delta themselves normally does to our bags each time we fly to Sweden so what is one more destroyed bag anyway, but it would be nice to get reimbursed for the bag since repairing it was not an option and even if it was my guess is it would cost more than $30 anyway.

We have now been back a few weeks and have submitted all the forms and photos and am waiting for a check from the TSA. Will we get one? I have no idea or how long if we do it will take. I will be sure to update this post if we do get one and just how long before it happened.

So you tell me: Have you ever had TSA destroy or damage one of your bags? Did you know they have forms for compensation if they do? Did you get paid for your incident? How long did it take to get paid? I would love to know if this has happened to you! – René

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Young_Tho®ough Reply

    Only ever had CBP intentionally damage my travel pouch in AUA, because I traveled too light and for to short a vacation, with GE. Like you my travel pouch costs very little. There was more insult to the poor profiling than the damage to the bag. However when embarrassed agent then turned his eyes to prod my Tumi…I gave him a look to let him know his folly would go no further…

  2. MILESMachine_ Reply

    Hey man… I had a suitcase completely torn and locks destroyed (even with the red diamond security accessible key slot) in JFK, enroute to CUN. They taped the bag with that TSA white stuff to hold it together, alongside the usual “Your bag was inspected, sorry for the damage, visit our website for better packing tips” Tried to contact them asking for compensation. There is a form online, they ask for pictures, and a ton of “prove it was me” red tape. Its been months since, havent heard a thing from TSA.

  3. Prob should not use an approved method of securing it… Nice of him to feel sheepish but don’t think the TSA is responsible

  4. I had a small souvenir go missing from my bag once when TSA inspected it. Filed a claim more because I was annoyed than for the value (roughly $20). They did reimburse me but it took quite a while–at least two to three months.

  5. I think that there is a bigger problem here. Any small bolt cutters that they would use to cut off a non TSA Approved travel lock should have no problem cutting through a zip tie. Obviously they used a knife or razor blade on this one and slipped. If they have the right tools and training, it shouldn’t of happened in the first place.

    Didn’t know the “government” actually acknowledged their “error” and offered any sort of compensation.

  6. TSA @ FWA must have a whole box full of locks. When I claim my bag at destination it has been sans lock on several occasions, always with the “we inspected your luggage” reminder inside. Upon return to FWA they claim there are no leftover locks in their Dept.

  7. I’m shocked that the TSA brought checked luggage over to the gate for inspection. They often cut my zip tie and inspect my checked luggage, but I’ve never heard of them bringing the luggage over to the gate since they can do a much more thorough inspection behind the scenes.
    Is your wife a secret agent?

    • @Steve – We were bringing Michigan fresh made Maple Sugar (a bunch). It must have looked evil.

  8. TSA is different in every airport. I travel from Richmond VA to San Juan and back a few times a year… Never had a problem… My husband went to Alaska and came back with his checked hard sided bag tore up… I mean, one of the wheels was missing and in its place was a big ole’ hole..

  9. Send John S. Pistole, the TSA Administrator, a letter and a photo of the damaged bag. Ask him if he will take you and your wife to BJ’s, Costco, or Sam’s Club and allow you to purchase a replacement using his membership card.

    I BJ’s has a 29″ Travel Pro for less than $100. If your wife can manage to shed a few tears he might even pick up the tab. Especially if he hasn’t reached Delta’s $25K MQD waiver because as luck would have it, BJ’s accepts American Express. It’s at least worth a shot. Good luck!

  10. dotti m cahill Reply

    i have had bags damaged but no one ever came to the gate to tell us!!Have had bad luck with checking a box of wines(with styrofoam inserts) It seems the wine can come from cali to jax sans problem but if checked to go anywhere? –It is inspected by TSA and the styrofoam is always broken in pieces and at least twice bottles broken. No one taking any responsibility for it!!!

  11. Kathy Fulmer Reply

    @rene you are lucky the agent found you and fessed up! Most airports are so busy that they would put the papers in the bag tape it up and sent it off. Let you figure out how to make the claim. Also if you actually do the job and understand why TSA would look at your Maple Sugar shut up and get a TSA lock instead of a stupid zip tie, you can get them in most stores! To those that blame damaged to bags on TSA 1.) stop packing your stupid bags so tight that they can’t close them without forcing them shut and possibly breaking the bag or zipper. 2) take a look out your windows someday while your waiting on the plane, watch just how careful NOT the ramp rats with the airlines are handling your bags.

  12. If you file the paperwork correctly, it will be checked. When someone at the airport is notified that there was a problem with a bag, they likely need to check the cameras watching the bag checks to determine how the damage occurred – and if it was already damaged and someone is trying to make a quick buck off of the government. I am not saying that is the case in the author’s situation, but I have seen a few questionable posts about ‘TSA causing hardship’.

    When packing, make sure that your bag is not over-packed. They need to remove items to get to the threat item, test it and then repack the bag. If it took you half an hour and a sacrifice to a voodoo doll to pack the bag in the first place, it is going to be a pain in the butt. Make sure to place liquids, gels and aerosols in plastic bags and wrap and pad delicate and fragile items so they are not accidentally bumped when the Transportation Security Officer shifts items to test the bag.
    I would not pack anything that you can not live without in a checked bag. My dad worked for the airline growing up and we flew several times a year. Our pre -flight entertainment was lining up by the windows and watching the baggage handlers throw bags into the cargo hold of the airplane. Some seemed to be trying to hit the bags against as many objects as possible. Most of the damage likely is not caused by TSA, but the three other agencies touching the bag – the airline loading it onto the ramp, baggage handlers at departure airport and baggage handlers at arrival airport. Then there is time honored gravity and conveyor belts to contend with. Cheap bags are not the ones to check your baggage in with.

  13. @Matthew,

    René acknowledged it was a cheap bag and he used a zip tie to close it. I believe he was using the zip tie to keep the bag closed, not as a security measure.

    TSA cuts locks all of the time, using a razor or box cutter type of tool to remove a zip tie is dangerous. The same tool that will cut a non TSA approved lock off of a bag will remove the zip tie as well and be safer. While René’s bag was the victim in this case, this could have been an OSHA issue with a wounded TSA angent.

    As far as cheap bags are concerned, I use them numerous times when I dont expect them to survive more than a trip or two. Walmart had one in their store that folded down and zippered into itself for like $15 and expanded to 36 inches. I used them when moving my son in for Drum Corp when his main duffel was too heavy. Had one break once on the way to PDX and Delta handed me a new rolling suitcase no questions asked at baggage claims.

  14. TSA won’t do as much damage as baggage carrier does. The damaged part is probably baggage area. Do you not hear them throwing your luggages around in the belly of the plane. They touch your luggages more than a TSA officer.

  15. I have an expensive suitcase where the zipper handle is broken off probably by a plier ? They had no reason to even look in the front flap , nothing in there ! The zippers worked fine . Just mean ! This is the second time . My wife’s new suitcase had 2 zipper handles broke off on a previous trip . No accident !! They know they are doing this with a tool ! Detroit- Charleston SC I had to pay $30 , the least they can reimburse me !! My bag was beat up also !

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