TSA Changes In The Time of COVID-19

It is so nice to have a travel-related topic today! The state of the world, starting with COVID-19 travel restrictions has made it rough to write about any relevant travel information. While the TSA security line never conjures up images of pony rides and party hats, it is nice to post about something other than social unrest and a novel coronavirus.

In late May, the TSA posted their updated security procedures on their website and since things are beginning to open up, some of you may be raring to get back on the road….ehm, on the plane. If it’s been a few months, or even weeks, since youv’e flown there might be a few differences at TSA checkpoints.

Here is the press release in full and below I’ve pulled out the details you need to know for each procedures.

  1. Know when to hold ‘em. You won’t be able to hand the boarding pass or your phone with the ePass to the TSA officer when you approach the podium before the security screening area. You’ll have to scan the document yourself and hold it up for the TSA agent to visually inspect it. This applies to both paper and ePasses. The intent of this procedure is the reduce the chance of cross-contamination by eliminate the need for the TSA agent to touch your boarding pass. THIS DOES APPLY TO TSA PRECHECK HOLDERS.
  2. Take out your take-away. As above, this will reduce cross-contamination, because with your food in a separate bag that you pull out and place in a bucket for screening, the TSA agent won’t have to open your carry-on bag and sort through your things to find that ham sandwich you are saving for the flight. THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO PRECHECK HOLDERS, so you can leave your hummus cup in your bag.
  3. Spread out. Much like what we are seeing in stores and food places around the world, social distancing measures will be in place. You’ll likely see floor signage or some designation of required distance between you and the passengers around you. Please note that every airport will have its own unique set-up so remember to be aware, be flexible, and be patient.
  4. Mask up! You will see TSA agents at each security checkpoint wearing a mask and you are encouraged to do so, as well. You may be asked to remove it or adjust it as you pass through the line for screening.
  5. Hack your pack. You are being reminded to adhere to the TSA liquid allowance of 3-1-1 (3 ounces of each liquid, all liquids MUST fit into one quart bag, and each passenger is limited to one bag per passenger).
    • WHAT’S NEW ABOUT THIS? Due to COVID-19 the TSA is letting each passenger carry one container of liquid hand sanitizer, up to 12 ounces in their carry-on bags. You will be required to remove the hand sanitizer from your bag before putting it through the X-ray machine.

Here are a few other procedures that may be new or new to you:

  • Increased cleaning of screening stations and lanes
  • Fewer security lanes in use
  • Optional face shields in use by TSA agents
  • TSA agents changing gloves after each pat-down
  • TSA agents being masked and gloved
  • Plexiglass or plastic dividers at screening stations, check-in counters, and bag drop

As I always advise, do your own research to determine how your airport and your airline are handling things and be sure to allow yourself even more time to get through security and to your gate.

The conventional rule has been to arrive 1 hour before a domestic flight and 2 hours before an international flight. In the COVID-19 world, my recommendation is to increase that to 2 hours domestic and 3 1/2 international. Why rush to get overheated and stroppy if you don’t have to, right?

For more information on how the TSA is working during the COVID-19 pandemic, check out the website here www.tsa.gov/coronavirus.

Thanks for stopping by and safe (and healthy) travels!!

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