Updated TSA Security Procedures & Travel Tips During the COVID-19 Pandemic

TSA Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that it will continue to adjust its security procedures during the COVID-19 global pandemic. The latest changes, updated September 9th, include:

  • The face mask requirement has been extended through January 18, 2022.
  • Acrylic barriers are being installed in phases at various check points that require interaction between passengers and TSA officers.
  • New technology reduces contact between agents and travelers, and prevents agents from touching bags. That technology includes,
    • Computed Tomography (CT) units that provide detailed 3-D images of a carry-on bag’s contents.
    • Enhanced Advanced Imaging Technology (eAIT) which safely screens passengers without physical contact.
    • Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) machines to automatically verify identification documents presented by passengers during the security screening process. Travelers keep possession of their boarding pass, place it on the document scanner, and show the boarding pass to the TSA officer for visual inspection while at the travel document checking station to further reduce touch points.
  • Expired licenses:
    • If your driver’s license or state-issued ID expired on or after March 1, 2020, and you are unable to renew at your state driver’s license agency, you may still use it as acceptable identification at the checkpoint.
    • TSA will accept expired driver’s licenses or state-issued ID one year after expiration.
  •  Real ID Extension:
    • DHS has extended the REAL ID enforcement deadline to May 3, 2023, when every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the United States.
  • TSA to Double Minimum Fines for Travelers Who Refuse to Wear Masks. Airline crews have repeatedly complained about unruly passenger behavior. The Transportation Security Administration on September 9th, 2021, announced it is doubling fines for travelers who don’t follow the federal mask mandate for air, bus and other forms of transportation. Fines start at $500 and go up to $3,000 for repeat offenders.

TSA PreCheck® Membership Gets You Through Security Lines Faster

In August 2021, 96% of TSA PreCheck® passengers waited less than five minutes because members do not need to remove shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts or light jackets, reducing overall contact during screening.

If you haven’t joined TSA PreCheck®, you can start the process by applying online. The cost is $85.00 for five years per person; children 12 and under can join a parent/guardian with TSA PreCheck® in the dedicated lanes. Once approved, add your Known Traveler Number (KTN) to your airline reservation to enjoy faster, more seamless security screening.

Start the TSA PreCheck® application process here.

Traveling During the Pandemic

The TSA asks travelers to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel guidance as well as local and state advisories regarding COVID-19.  As of February 2, 2021, all airline travelers must wear a face mask throughout the travel experience when indoors. You will be asked to adjust your mask for ID verification or if it alarms the security screening equipment.

Travelers are also encouraged to:

  • Maintain a social distance of six feet wherever possible while at the checkpoint.
  • Remove belts and all personal items from your pockets such as wallets, keys or phones before you enter the checkpoint queue and place them in your carry-on bag.  (Does not apply to TSA PreCheck® members).
  • Practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly, including directly before and after completing the security screening process. If it is not possible to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer.
  • Arrive at the airport early to allow adequate time for checking bags, completing security screening and getting to the departure gate. COVID-19 has affected staffing and operations across the airport environment, potentially adding time to your pre-flight experience.

Click here for a printable infographic on “What to Know Before You Go.”

For the latest TSA press releases and statements related to COVID-19, please visit their media page.

When to Get to the Airport

During the pandemic, clearance at security points may take longer than usual, therefore it’s recommended that you arrive at the airport earlier than usual. Check with your airline for additional Covid-19 updates and other travel information. Mobile apps make it easier to keep track of your flight.

Passengers with a disability or medical condition may call ahead to the TSA Cares toll free helpline at (855) 787-2227.

Food & Snacks

Airlines provide limited food service onboard aircraft. If you want to purchase food before your flight, there are options at Boston Logan Airport. PPE vending machines are available pre-security in Terminals A and B.

The meal delivery service Bos2Go is now available. Passengers can order a food or a hot cup of coffee touch free from anywhere in the airport before their flight without leaving their gate. Click here for other food and shopping options.

When you bring food to the airport with you, remove food items from carry-on bags and place in bin for screening. (Does not apply to TSA PreCheck® members.)

Know what you can pack in your carry-on and checked baggage before arriving at the airport by reviewing the lists at the TSA’s “What I Can Bring” page. Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns.

Make a packing list

When it’s time to pack for your trip, place medicines you may need in your small carry-on bag, and bring these other essential safe travel items:

  • Face masks: Take along extra masks stored in a plastic bag.
  • Tissues: They also come in handy for opening doors and other high touch areas.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol): As a temporary exemption from the 3-1-1 rule, TSA is allowing one oversized liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger, in carry-on bags. These will need to be placed in a bin during the screening process. Passengers may also bring hand wipes through checkpoints.
  • Disinfectant wipes (at least 70% alcohol) for surfaces: Once seated, clean all items in your area, such as the tray, arms of seat, seat belt, etc. Also bring them along to the restroom.
  • Thermometer: One small clinical/medical mercury thermometer per person is permitted. The thermometer must be in a protective case. (Regulation that allows it: 49 CFR 175.10(a)(7),)
    • Tip: thermometers with a red line instead of silver are not mercury and not restricted. Digital thermometers are also not restricted. 
    • Though allowed in checked and carry-on baggage by U.S.regulations, medical mercury thermometers are not allowed in carry-on baggage by international (ICAO/IATA) regulations.
  • Check the TSA list of items you can bring in your carry-on and checked bags. You may be required to remove some items from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings.
  • The TSA offers a printer-friendly packing list to help you plan ahead.

While raveling is a bit more challenging during the pandemic, planning ahead will ensure a smoother trip.

#TravelSafe #EnjoyTheJourney

Sources: TSA, FAA

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