The Simple Item You Should Really Hope Airline Staff Never Put On Your Luggage

Stickers and barcoded tags are to be expected on checked luggage when traveling, and without these additions, your bag might not make it to your destination. However, a cable tie is a less common sight — and one you should hope doesn't get placed on your luggage.

According to The U.S. Sun, a man traveling to Bali, Indonesia, was perplexed after finding cable ties on his suitcase handles, so he took to a Facebook group to ask others what the mysterious ties meant. Another woman posted a similar question to the Facebook group Bali Bogans, a group focused on Bali travel, reported. Other members of the group had been handed cable-tied luggage of their own, suggesting that the peculiar item wasn't placed there by accident.

As aviation security expert Martin Engeler told The U.S. Sun, the plastic ties actually serve an important purpose behind the scenes: "Baggage is screened before they come out of the airport," Engeler explained. "[A cable tie] tells customs to check that bag."

If you find a cable tie, you might face trouble at the airport

We all expect to have our carry-on luggage undergo a thorough check, and occasionally, additional airport screening may be in order. However, we might overlook our checked bags, which are also subject to security checks. According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), most checked baggage undergoes screening without needing to be opened and searched by an officer. If TSA does search inside, the agency will place a paper notice inside the bag, rather than leaving a zip tie on the handle.

While having your bag searched shouldn't be something to fear — assuming you have nothing illegal to hide — it may create some problems at the airport. An additional check could cause delays at baggage claim, and you might have to wait longer than other passengers to retrieve your luggage. Even worse, you might have your items taken or be charged a fine for the contents of your suitcase. One person wrote in the Bali Bogans Facebook group, "I had [a cable tie] on my bag customs searched my bag and took my alcohol." Another added, "Mine was green and they pulled me up and searched and charged me $300 AUD ... I was carrying Bluetooth speakers as gifts for my friends."

How to avoid being flagged by customs and airport security

Standard travel essentials, such as clothing and most toiletries, won't get you in trouble if placed in your checked baggage. For other items, it's best to check the restrictions of your destination. Indonesia, where the cable-tie method appears to be common, can be strict when it comes to certain goods. For instance, phones and communication devices are limited to two pieces per traveler, according to the country's Directorate General of Customs. There's also a limit on alcohol, cigarettes, and other items.

The U.S. Department of State warns against bringing several other types of goods into foreign destinations, including large amounts of money, precious metals and precious stones, antiques, some animal products, and some religious articles and texts.

You should also avoid packing anything that could pose a safety threat. TSA forbids electronic cigarettes, cordless curling and straightening irons, bleach, strong alcohol (over 140 proof), and several other items in checked luggage. When in doubt, research restrictions online using government-run websites or contact your airline for advice.