The Transportation Security Administration is preparing a very different summer travel season given the evolving novel coronavirus pandemic, according to a TSA press release.
TSA has implemented changes to the security screening process that reduce the potential for cross-contamination at the security checkpoint in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Changes have already taken place with more to be implemented at airport checkpoints nationwide by mid-June.
“In the interest of TSA frontline workers and traveler health, TSA is committed to making prudent changes to our screening processes to limit physical contact and increase physical distance as much as possible,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in the press release.
As procedure changes begin to rollout in the coming weeks, travelers should expect to:
Keep possession of their boarding passes. Instead of handing their boarding pass to a TSA officer, travelers should now place their boarding pass (paper or electronic) on the boarding pass reader. After scanning, travelers should hold their boarding pass toward the TSA officer to allow it to be visually inspected.
Separate food for X-ray screening. Passengers should place their carry-on food items into a clear plastic bag and place that bag into a bin. Food items often trigger an alarm; separating the food from the carry-on bag lessens the likelihood that a TSA officer will need to remove the food items for a closer inspection. TSA Precheck members do not need to remove items from their bags.
Pack smart. Passengers should take extra care to ensure that they do not have any prohibited items, such as liquids, gels or aerosols in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces, in their carry-on bags. In response to COVID-19, TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger, in carry-on bags. Passengers are required to remove the hand sanitizer from the carry-on bag before being submitted for x-ray screening.
Practice social distancing. Passengers should allow for social distancing to reduce direct contact between employees and travelers whenever possible without compromising security. Noticeable adjustments leading up to the security checkpoint include increasing the distance between individuals as they enter the security checkpoint, placing visual reminders of appropriate spacing on checkpoint floors and staggering the use of lanes where feasible.
Wear facial protection. TSA officers at checkpoints are now using facial protection. Travelers are encouraged to wear face protection to the checkpoint as well. Travelers are also encouraged to remove items such as belts, and items from their pockets, like wallets, keys and phones, and put them directly into their carry-on bags instead of into the bins to reduce touch-points during the screening process.
Travelers who have not flown since the pandemic are also likely to notice some other changes. They include:
• Reduced security lane usage due to the reduction in passenger volume.
• All TSA officers at checkpoints wearing masks and gloves.
• TSA officers optionally wearing eye protection and clear plastic face shields at some locations.
• TSA officers will continue the practice of changing gloves after each pat-down.
• Plastic shielding installed at many travel document checking podiums, divest, bag search and drop off locations.
• TSA officers practicing social distancing.
• Routine cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces in the screening checkpoint area.
Travelers are encouraged to arrive at the airport early as COVID-19 has affected staffing and operations across the airport environment.
For more information on the TSA security screening process during the pandemic, visit www.tsa.gov/coronavirus.