Recently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced they had completed the rollout of enhanced screening procedures for carry-on baggage at all U.S. federal airports. Per their press release, the new screenings are part of an effort to raise the baseline for airport security. TSA Administrator David Pekoske said that “these enhanced screening measures enable TSA officers to better screen for threats to passengers and aircrew while maintaining efficiency at checkpoints throughout the U.S.” As CEO of Ovation Travel Group, I’ve been getting some questions about what this means and what to expect when you go the airport. Here are 5 things you need to know about the new TSA screening procedures:
More items are required to be screened in bins. The enhanced measures require travelers to place all personal electronics larger than a cell phone in bins for X-ray screening in standard lanes. This includes tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles. Plus, much like the rules already in place for laptops, nothing is allowed on top of or below these items to allow for better screening, which means more travelers will be using more bins than they used to. The TSA also notes that “items that cannot be identified and resolved at the checkpoint are prohibited from entering the cabin of the aircraft.”
You may be asked to remove food from bags. There are a few items that the TSA has stated they “may” instruct passengers to remove from their bags for separated screening. These “gray” areas include food and powders. According to AskTSA, the government agency’s official Twitter account, the purpose of these requests isn’t to scrutinize food. Instead “…removing these items may assist our officers in getting a clearer view of the bag, reducing the number of additional inspections needed.” In fact, officials may ask travelers to remove anything that might clutter a bag and obstruct the images on x-ray machines. In case you’re wondering, the “3-1-1” liquids rule is still in place and remains unchanged.
These procedures aren’t new everywhere. If it seems like you’ve already experienced these procedures, it’s probably because you have. The stronger measures have been phased in since last summer at several airports around the country. Moreover, the implementation has occurred during high-volume periods, including 5% more travelers during spring break this year than last year, breaking an all-time record in the U.S. with 72 million passengers screened. This is pretty good news, as it means TSA agents are now that much more familiar with helping travelers adjust to these new procedures.
TSA PreCheck remains the same. Travelers that are certified for TSA PreCheck will continue to enjoy the same expedited screening benefits that the program has always offered. This includes leaving your shoes, belts and light jackets on. It also means leaving your “3-1-1” liquids bag and electronics in your carry-on as they are screened. While the TSA has always noted that no individual is absolutely guaranteed expedited screening, as unpredictable security measures can arise at any time, this last point may be worth the price of admission alone, given the new procedures. For more information on enrolling in TSA PreCheck, click here.
Allow more time and pack strategically. Whenever there is a new security measure being implemented at the airport, it’s always going to take a bit of time to smooth out the process, and it’s always a good idea to subsequently factor in more time in the security lanes in order to combat the likely delays. These enhanced procedures are certainly no exception; not only will travelers be using more bins, but the process of screening different kinds of food can get, well, messy. In order to avoid the extra time, hassle and potential uncertainty of having food pass through security, it might be worth it not to buy snacks until you get through those checkpoints. The TSA has said they will station additional agents at the front of security checkpoints in order to answer questions and assist travelers as they navigate these new measures. In the meantime, pack your carry-on strategically so that all items can be removed easily, and relax with the knowledge that the safety of our air transportation system is constantly being monitored and upgraded.