How to Cope with Airline Travel Under TSA Security Requirements
To help make airline travel safer the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), on Jan. 1, 2003, began implementing new, heightened baggage security screening for checked baggage at all airports.
The measures are required to comply with airport security regulations passed by Congress in 2001 following terrorist attacks. About 300 U.S. airports already have been supplied with bomb detection equipment. While other airports await their equipment, bomb-sniffing dogs, hand searches and other means will be utilized in order to meet the security requirements.
Ten Tips for Travelers
Some travelers will need to change the way they pack. Experts offer these tips to reduce waiting and inconvenience:
- If passengers wish to transport food they should consider sending it by a private overnight express service as items such as cheese or fruit cake may set off a “false positive.” These items are dense and bomb detection machines may not read accurately if they are packed.
- Books should be spread out instead of stacked as they can also set off a “false positive” due to their density.
- Shoes should be packed last to make it easier for screeners to hand search baggage.
- Don’t put film in checked bags because screening equipment will damage it. (Digital cameras will not be affected.)
- Put personal items, like underwear and toiletries, in a zip-lock plastic bag so screeners don’t have to handle them.
- Leave bags unlocked so screeners will not have to force them open. It is recommended that passengers use cable or zip ties, which can be purchased at hardware stores and cut off easily.
- Put scissors, pocket-knives and other sharp items in checked bags; never carried on board the aircraft.
- Put personal belongings in clear plastic bags to reduce chances of a TSA screener having to handle them.
- If you have gifts in your luggage, leave them unwrapped.
- Finally…show up early. Airlines typically require passengers to arrive 90 minutes in advance for domestic and 2 hours in advance for international flights, but it is recommended passengers allow even more time for the new screening process. The TSA also reminded passengers that all bags are subject to search. The agency says it is moving toward providing travelers with free, padlock-like seals that screeners can snip open if a search is necessary.
TSA chief James M. Loy said the agency is not liable for damage to bags that must be opened and searched but he said the agency is still working on a liability policy to cover cases where bags are missing. “For the short term, we will handle incidents on a case-by-case basis,” Loy said.
If TSA screeners need to open a bag, they will place a notice inside that includes a toll-free number for passengers to call if they have a complaint, and the bag will be marked on the outside with a tag identifying it as one that was screened.
For the most up-to-date information regarding airport security measures, including a list of prohibited articles, you can access the Transportation Security Administration’s website.