The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of changes to the travel industry. While we’re all becoming more accustomed to the “new normal” of social distancing and wearing masks, when it comes to flying, knowing how these changes will impact you could be the difference between making your flight or missing it.
The Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) has made some changes to their security process to further protect flyers and TSA officers and as destinations, hotels, resorts and theme parks are starting to open back up, there’s no doubt that air traffic will start to get a bit busier as well.
In a recent press release, addressing what security will look like in the future, TSA Administrator David Pekoske recently said “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,”
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:
1. 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.
2. 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 enforced very often but it will be now. Travelers with TSA Precheck are exempt from this rule.
3. 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 rule is in place to prevent TSA officers from touching passengers’ bags as frequently as they used to. You can now bring up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer through security but it must be removed from your bag before screening.
4. 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 make sure you give people at least six feet of space.
5. It’s highly encouraged to wear face protection. You can leave your face covering (mask, bandanna, etc.) on when you go through screening but you’ll still need to remove the standard items like your belt, your shoes and anything in your pockets. Again, travelers with TSA Precheck are exempt from some of these rules.
In another recent press release, the TSA shared a few other things flyers 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.
As you can see, the TSA is making several changes that will impact the time it takes to get through the security checkpoints. Our recommendation is to give yourself additional time to get through them because the last thing you want to do is to miss your flight because you couldn’t get through security.
How do you feel about these changes? Will you be flying anytime soon?
Thanks for reading.