The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) to update some TSA guidelines to further protect flyers and TSA officers. And as destinations, hotels, resorts and theme parks are starting to open up and welcome visitors again, it’s not doubt that air traffic will continue to get a bit busier.
“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 a recent press release.
If you’re flying somewhere and haven’t been through a TSA security checkpoint since before the pandemic, here are five new things you should expect:
- You won’t hand your boarding pass to a TSA officer. Whether it’s on paper or electronic (on your smartphone), you will place it on the boarding pass reader to scan it, then show it to the TSA officer.
- Put all food items in a clear plastic bag and remove it from your carry-on before screening. Though this rule has been in place for a while, it wasn’t often enforced – but it will be now. Travelers with TSA Precheck are exempt from this one.
- You’ll need to pack even smarter than before because if a prohibited item (like liquids over 3.4 ounces) is found during screening, you may be told to go back outside of the security area to remove and have to start all over again. This is to prevent TSA officers from touching passengers’ bags as frequently as they used to. Quick reminder: You can now bring up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer through security, but it must be removed from your bag before screening.
- You should practice social distancing. Yes, some societal rules go out the window when you’re at the airport (A cocktail at 9:00 am? Paying $15 for a beer? Sure!), but social distancing is not one of them. It’s going to be part of our normal life for a while so just get used to it and give people at least six feet of space.
- It’s highly encouraged to wear face protection. You can leave your face covering (mask, bandana, etc.) on when you go through screening but you’ll still need to remove the standard items: your belt, your shoes and anything in your pockets.
In a recent press release, TSA shared a few more things flyers today should be aware of:
- 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.