New Screening Standards At Airport Security

TSA has enhanced SARS-CoV-2 related security screening at airports
empty airport

With the 2020 summer holiday kicking off in the USA this weekend, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is preparing a very different travel season given the evolving COVID-19 disease pandemic. 

Announced on May 21, 2020, the TSA has implemented changes to the security screening process that reduce the potential for cross-contamination at the security checkpoint in an effort to help prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

The TSA has already begun implementation of these changes – with more to be implemented at US airports by mid-June.

“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 the physical distance as much as possible,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske, in a press statement.

“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.”

Over the past couple of weeks, TSA has experienced a steady growth of travelers coming through airport checkpoints. As procedure changes begin to roll out in the coming weeks, travelers should expect to experience these changes.

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. 

This change reduces the TSA officer’s need to touch a passenger’s boarding pass thus reducing the potential for virus cross-contamination.

And, 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 new requirement enables social distancing, reduces the TSA officer’s need to touch a person’s container of food, and reduces the potential for cross-contamination. 

However, TSA ‘Precheck’ members do not need to remove items from their bags.

Furthermore, air travelers should take extra care to ensure that they do not have any prohibited items, such as liquids, gels or aerosols in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces, in their carry-on bags (water bottles, shampoo). 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 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. 

If a bag is found to contain a prohibited item, passengers may be directed to return to the divestiture table outside of security with their carry-on bags to remove the item and dispose of the item. 

The passenger may also be directed back outside of security to remove items that should have originally been divested (such as laptops, liquids, gels, and aerosols, and large electronics) and resubmit their property for X-ray screening. 

By resolving alarms in this manner, TSA officers will need to touch the contents inside a carry-on bag much less frequently, reducing the potential for cross-contamination.

And most importantly, TSA officers at checkpoints are now using facial protection. Travelers are encouraged to wear face protection to the checkpoint as well. 

Please note, passengers may need to adjust it during the screening process.

Travelers who have not flown since the pandemic began in January 2020 are also likely to notice some other changes. They include:

  • 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.

Many airlines and airports are also providing specific COVID-19 related guidance to travelers; please check with your airline prior to your trip. 

Travelers are encouraged to arrive at the airport early as COVID-19 has affected staffing and operations across the airport environment. This will allow adequate time for checking bags, completing security screening, and getting to the departure gate. 

Click here for more information on the TSA security screening process during the pandemic.

Vax-Before-Travel publishes international travel news.