TSA Is Changing How Airport Screening Works Next Month Due To COVID-19

TSA is rolling out changes to the security process, already in effect in some airports and complete across the nation by mid-June. They want to reduce contact between passengers, and between passengers and screeners, and to remind customers to minimize actions that lead to screeners opening up bags and giving pat downs.

Here are changes to expect:

  • No more scribbling on paper boarding passes. Customers using mobile boarding passes are used to scanning them themselves. That’s why it always seemed odd that TSA screeners took paper boarding passes and scribbled on them. In general no one checked their scribblings. Now passengers will scan their own paper boarding passes, but have to hold the boarding pass towards the agent to allow inspection. I am confident most won’t look closely as unsteady hands hold up pieces of paper. The TSA screener won’t touch the boarding pass, which is good, but they’ll still touch your ID.

  • Food items should be separated for x-ray. TSA wants food in a clear plastic bag, taken out and placed in a bin. That’s because food is often a trigger for further inspection. This reduces the likelihood of additional screening, and of the need for a TSA screener to dig through your bag. This is not required for anyone going through PreCheck.

  • Please don’t bring scissors or guns. More than ever try not to alarm by sticking a dangerous bottle of water in your carry on bag. Remember though that the War on Water has been slightly relaxed to allow one bottle of 12 ounce (or less) hand sanitizer, apart from your Freedom Baggie of 3 ounce liquids. However if you’re caught with contraband you may be sent out of security to dispose of it yourself and have to start the screening process over.

  • Markings on the ground to promote social distancing. Once travel returns there won’t be enough space in the airport for this to work, but for now they’re trying to keep passengers spaced while in line for screening. Of course with fewer checkpoints open you may see some longer lines even now.

  • Please wear a mask Many airports now require it, it’s not clear that TSA legally can, but they would like passengers to do so even in airports where it isn’t mandatory. They may still ask you to adjust or remove your mask during screening. Screeners will be wearing masks and gloves and may be wearing face shields.

  • Put loose items in your bags, not into bins. Because while self-sanitizing bins have been around for years TSA hasn’t gotten around to using them.

The biggest difference is that paper boarding passes won’t be handed over to screeners, and that passengers may be asked to remove their own contraband from the checkpoint and start the screening process over. Remember that you should insist on a new pair of gloves prior to a pat down.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Anytime I’ve needed to use the bins (particularly in the US), the first thing i do after leaving the area is immediately go to the washroom and wash my hands thoroughly. “Before” using the facility to be clear. Those bins are beyond disgusting and NEVER cleaned. They go from one to the other as we’ve all seen many times. The entire TSA area is quite disgusting to begin with and the bins have to be the absolute worst.

    I wouldn’t say it’s much better in other countries, but at least they do tend to look cleaner. I’m sure they are just as dirty. Cleanliness has always been a forgotten task at most airports and inside planes. This is the price we have to pay for filth unfortunately.

    Thanks for the bit of info here Gary.

  2. At FLL, everyone (pre-check, non pre-check) are directed to the same lanes for screening. No signs. Your computers have to come out and if you don’t have your boarding pass, your shoes are coming off and you are going through the body scanner. The efficient ones who place their phones in their bags are penalized.

  3. Never thought about the bins, sounds like wipes or gloves will be the new normal for grabbing an available bin.

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