TSA Screening Procedures 2021: What’s Changed Because of COVID-19?

TSA screening is a fact of life when you travel. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, these procedures have changed to adapt to the health crisis.

Getting ready to fly cross-country or abroad now has a few more requirements you have to be aware of before boarding your flight. This article explains what these changes are and how to get ready to prepare to travel and comply with the main security checks.

What Has Changed in the TSA Screening Procedures?

The TSA has enhanced its security checkpoints in order to deal with increasing passenger volumes and COVID. These are intended to reduce physical contact between its staff and those traveling.

One of the key differences is that members of TSA staff will wear gloves and masks as a precaution. There is also an acrylic barrier that will be used between the organization’s officers and passengers to keep social distancing of at least 6 feet in place.

Passengers too must wear a face mask at all times to comply with the federal mask mandate. This applies to all travelers over the age of 2 years old.

Additionally, Computed Tomography (CT) technology is being used to help agents avoid touching passenger’s carry-on bags. This utilizes 3D imaging to streamline the process of bag checks and to make it much easier to inspect their contents at a distance.

As part of these new measures, TSA staff also no longer handle boarding passes themselves. Instead, passengers must hold their paper or digital copies up to the code reader and so that the officer can inspect it properly.

Saving Time With a TSA Precheck

The expedited TSA Precheck process is recommended for travelers in places where it is available. This helps speed up the checks needed at the airport to securely board your flight and to avoid additional contact points.

To do this you will just need ID such as your passport and birth certificate and to attend an appointment at an application center. Once completed you will be given a Known Traveler Number (KTN) which will allow you to cut down your time waiting in line at airport security.

5 Important Tips for Getting Through TSA Screening

The TSA has produced 5 essential guidelines for passengers to follow when passing through airport screening checkpoints. These are designed to speed up and streamline the time it takes for passengers to comply with the adjusted procedures being used by the organization at the moment.

Reduce Any Possible Touchpoints

Travelers are advised to take extra steps to avoid possible contact with TSA staff and equipment such as the plastic trays. When passing through screening equipment passengers should remove all personal items from their pockets and place them in their carry-on bag.

Depending on the airport you are in and if it has tomography scanners, passengers should follow the appropriate instructions on whether to remove electronic items or not from their bag before it is scanned.

Bring an Extra Mask

It is mandatory to wear a mask in airports and on flights. This is enforced via the federal mask mandate and refusal to wear a mask will prevent you from passing through TSA screening.

As a result, passengers are advised to pack an extra mask in case the one they are using breaks or is lost. It can also be used to replace a used mask if the current one gets worn out.

Carry Hand Sanitizer and Wipes

Passengers are advised to carry hand sanitizer and wipes on flights to reduce the risk of contact contamination.

You are permitted to carry the following on a plane:

  • A 12 ounce bottle of liquid hand sanitizer
  • An unlimited amount of sanitizing wipes

There are some minor extra checks for the liquid sanitizer in your carry-on items. However, wipes require no additional steps or limits and can be carried safely through TSA screening.

Pack Carry-On Items Only

It has always been important to ensure that your carry-on bag only contains items that are safe for flying. However, during the pandemic having this correct before entering a TSA checkpoint is even more essential.

To further reduce possible touch points it’s crucial to avoid triggering an alarm with your carry-on baggage. Passengers are therefore advised to check the TSA guidance on what you can and cannot pack in your hand luggage before arriving at the airport.

Keep Any Food You’re Carrying in a Clear Plastic Bag

If you will be traveling with food, it should be kept in a clear plastic bag so it can easily be inspected by TSA staff. This also reduces the risk of food contamination with the personal item trays used during screening.

Passengers must remove all food items from their bags and place it in the tray when passing TSA checkpoints. This helps avoid triggering unnecessary alarms during the screening process and avoid delays in the line.

Being prepared to deal with airport security has always been an essential part of travel. Now it is even more so with additional TSA checks and measures necessary to prevent COVID from spreading.