WebMD News Brief

TSA Unveils New Security Procedures at Airports

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From the WebMD Archives

May 22, 2020 -- The nation is reopening from the coronavirus shutdown as Memorial Day and the summer travel season approach. If you head to the airport soon, be prepared to scan your own boarding pass and put carry-on food into plastic bags for inspection.

The Transportation Security Administration is updating security procedures at checkpoints in an attempt to reduce the potential for COVID-19 cross-contamination, the agency said in a news release. The changes should be in place at airports nationwide by mid-June, the agency said.

“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 physical distance as much as possible,” TSA administrator David Pekoske said in the news release. “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.”

Here are some of the main changes:

Travelers will scan their paper or electronic boarding pass themselves, instead of handing them to a TSA officer, then hold the boarding pass up for the officer to visually inspect.

  • Food items should be placed in clear plastic bags and put into bins for X-ray scanning.
  • Separating the food reduces the chances a TSA officer will need to open a bag, the TSA says.
  • The TSA encourages people to “pack smart.” If an officer thinks a prohibited item is inside a bag, travelers may have to leave the screening area while the bag is searched.
  • Up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer can be carried onto a plane, but only 3.4 ounces of other liquids or gels.
  • TSA officers will wear face masks. Travelers are “encouraged” to do so, the TSA says.
  • Social distancing will be practiced while people stand in line for screenings.

The TSA has already enacted other measures, such as requiring officers to change gloves after each pat-down. The TSA also encourages travelers to arrive in plenty of time for their flight because the new procedures may take longer.

The TSA is not requiring temperature screenings of passengers at checkpoints, despite calls from the Trump administration that such procedures be put in place. However, Frontier Airlines and Air Canada have announced plans to start screening their passengers with touchless thermometers.