TSA Announces New Security Screening Procedures to Contain Virus Spread

David Caplan
May 21, 2020 - 11:17 am

    The Transportation Security Administration released on Thursday morning a handful of new procedural changes for air travelers in light of the coronavirus pandemic and as domestic air travel experiences an uptick.

    The federal agency said in a press release it is "preparing for a very different travel season."

    The TSA has already begun changes to the screening process to contain and lessen the spread of the potentially-deadly virus.

    TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement, "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. We continue to evaluate our security measures with an eye towards making smart, timely decisions benefiting health and safety, as well as the traveler experience."

    Below are the new procedural changes, expected to be rolled-out across the country by mid-June, the TSA outlined in a document:

    Keep possession of their boarding passes: Instead of handing their boarding pass to a TSA officer at the travel document podium, travelers should now place their boarding pass (paper or electronic) on the boarding pass reader themselves. After scanning, travelers should hold their boarding pass toward the TSA officer to allow the officer to visually inspect it.

    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 during the screening process; separating the food from the carry-on bag lessens the likelihood that a TSA officer will need to open the carry-on bag and remove the food items for a closer inspection. This requirement allows social distancing, reduces the TSA officer’s need to touch a person’s container of food and reduces potential for cross-contamination. TSA Precheck members do not need to remove items from their bags.

    Packing hand sanitizer: 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. Please note, however, passengers may need to adjust it during the screening process. 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.

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