The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of changes to our world. Some of those changes include new TSA security procedures.
Whether you plan on traveling in the near future or will be waiting until the distant future, everyone should be aware of the new TSA security procedures. No one wants to be surprised at the airport.
This article will walk you through everything you need to know about the new TSA security procedures before you travel.
In general, the new TSA security procedures are designed to reduce touchpoints between TSA personnel and passengers.
Reducing the number of times a TSA agent touches you and your things helps prevent cross-contamination and the spread of disease.
Some of these procedures are designed to reduce the number of times a bag requires inspection. That means fewer times when your bag is pulled from security and examined. Now that’s a silver-lining if there ever was one!
Hold on to your boarding pass
One of the first changes you’ll notice at the TSA security checkpoint is related to your boarding pass.
In the past, if you had a paper ticket, you would hand your ticket to the TSA agent to scan the ticket for you. Going forward, you’ll scan the ticket yourself and will then hold up the ticket for the TSA agent to inspect.
If you usually use an electronic ticket, then the process is essentially unchanged from before. As you did in the past, you’ll hold your mobile device to the scanner to scan the ticket yourself.
Put food into plastic bags
If you don’t have TSA Precheck, you’ll be required to place any food items into a plastic bag.
Like with toiletries, the plastic bag with the food must be removed from your carry-on luggage and placed into a bin for security screening.
The reason for this change is that food sometimes triggers an alarm and requires a TSA agent to inspect your bag. If you separate the food from your bag, this reduces the chance that your bag will trigger an alarm that requires further inspection. That’s a win in my book.
This new procedure adds to the list of why TSA Precheck is so valuable. With TSA Precheck, you don’t need to pack your food in a plastic bag and you don’t need to pull it out of your carry-on luggage for security.
Prepare for social distancing
No two airports are alike in their security setup. TSA has indicated that these differences will be evident when it comes to social distancing at security checkpoints.
Some airports may have spacers on the floor to encourage social distancing while waiting in line. Some may not. Other airports may create extra space between security lanes. Others may not.
Regardless of these differences, you’ll likely experience some type of social distancing requirement at the airport. When you arrive at the airport, take a moment to look for any markers on the ground or signs that signify social distancing requirements.
Wear a face mask
TSA is encouraging passengers to wear facial protection (such as a mask or a visor) while going through security. Facial protection is currently optional and is not a requirement.
That being said, new procedures often bring confusion and inconsistent enforcement at airports.
In my experience, some things that are officially considered “optional” are sometimes enforced as “required” by TSA agents. And you don’t want to get in a showdown with a TSA agent. Ever.
To avoid potential issues, I strongly recommend that you wear a face mask when going through security. You can even make an interesting fashion statement by wearing one of these fun face masks.
Put items in your carry-on before getting to security
There are some people who seemingly carry everything on their person. In the security line, you have to patiently (or impatiently) wait as these individuals take their belt, watch, heavy jewelry, wallet, keys, change, phone, and a partridge in a pear tree and place it in the security bin.
Don’t be that person.
*Before* you get in the security line, put all these items into your carry-on.
When you put things directly into the security bin, you increase the chances of cross-contamination. You also increase your time spent in the security line. Neither of which are great for reducing the spread of disease.
Help everyone out (including yourself) by putting items you can’t wear through the security scanner into your carry-on before you reach the security line.
Be cautious about hand sanitizer
TSA now allows passengers to pack a single container of liquid hand sanitizer up to 12 ounces in their carry-on.
I’m a little hesitant about this one. This feels like another area that won’t be consistently enforced. How will TSA agents know for sure it’s hand sanitizer? If you use a reusable container that doesn’t have a size label, how will TSA agents know it’s 12 or less ounces?
I’ve had too many “compliant” containers confiscated in the past to really trust this one. I’d stick with the usual 3.4 ounces limit for liquids to avoid having your hand sanitizer confiscated.
If you elect to bring 12 ounces of hand sanitizer with you, you’ll have to remove it from your carry-on and place it in the security bin for scanning. TSA doesn’t mention whether this applies to TSA Precheck passengers. Which adds yet another area of confusion and another reason to just stick to the regular 3.4 ounces for hand sanitizer.
Double-check for prohibited items
If you’re like me, you occasionally forget about the full water bottle in your backpack. Or fail to consider that the full-size tube of toothpaste in your carry-on doesn’t meet security requirements.
When you’re putting your watch, wallet, etc. in your carry-on bag, do a quick double-check of your carry-on to make sure it doesn’t have any prohibited items.
To avoid requiring TSA agents to physically examine bags, TSA is warning passengers that passengers may have to exit security, dispose of any prohibited items, and then go back through security again. This sounds like a complete nightmare to me. I’ll be double-checking my carry-on for prohibited items before going through security from now on.
Know airport and airline-specific requirements
Before you head to the airport, look online to see if there are any airport or airline-specific requirements in addition to the requirements above.
Air travel and security checkpoints can already be stressful. Surprise requirements can add even more stress.
Reduce stress and unexpected surprises by researching what to expect at specific airports and with specific airlines before you travel.
Keep updated on changing TSA requirements
Since these are unprecedented times (does anyone miss “precedented” times?), it’s likely we’ll see even more new TSA security procedures in the future.
Check TSA’s website and look for press releases like this one to help you stay updated on changing requirements.