With groups beginning to travel again—now that the weather is warming up and the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel draws nearer—it's important to consider what has changed about the flying experience and what groups could now expect.
"For those passengers returning to travel for the first time since 2019, be aware that some processes at the checkpoint have changed and some, like removing your shoes, remain in place," said Darby LaJoye, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the TSA Administrator. "Additionally, during high volume months, travelers should plan to arrive early at the airport to complete the airport screening process and arrive timely at their departure gate."
The TSA has said that changes to airport screening checkpoints include the deployment of two new technologies, Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) and Computed Tomography (CT).
Since the pandemic, TSA deployed these systems to checkpoints and modified screening procedures in an effort to reduce physical contact. TSA deployed 501 CAT units to 88 airports and 323 CT units to 141 airports nationwide. The modified CAT unit allows passengers to scan their own ID to complete the identity verification process and eliminate the need to hand the credential to a TSA officer. The CT units provide TSA officers the ability to review a 3D image of passengers' bags and reduce the need to search the bag's contents. Passengers screened in security lanes with CT units do not need to remove their 3-1-1 bag or electronics. In addition, TSA installed acrylic barriers throughout its checkpoints nationwide.
"Almost three times as many Americans plan to travel this summer than in 2020, and more than half of those will be taking their very first trip since the pandemic," said Roger Dow, President & CEO, U.S. Travel Association. "It's terrific that Americans can safely travel again, thanks to the remarkable scientific developments that now protect the public, coupled with the practices of America's travel industry to ensure the health and safety of travelers and the travel workforce."
The TSA has offered these five simple tips to get through security checkpoints quickly and efficiently:
1. Wear a face mask. Face masks remain mandatory for employees and passengers, regardless of vaccination status, throughout all domestic transportation modes, including airport security screening checkpoints. Since the implementation of the face mask mandate for travelers on February 2, there has been near-total voluntary compliance throughout the entire transportation system.
2. Pack smart; start with empty bags. Those airline passengers who begin packing for travel with empty bags are less likely to bring prohibited items through a TSA checkpoint. Technology and modifications help reduce the need for physical contact with TSA officers, but those who take time to come prepared for the TSA checkpoint are far more likely to avoid physical contact. Check for prohibited items by using the "What Can I Bring?" page on TSA.gov.
3. Consider other ways that might help avoid physical contact at the checkpoint. Prior to entering the line for the TSA checkpoint, take a few minutes to prepare. Place jewelry, keys and other pocketed items into your carry-on bag so they might be scanned with need for fewer bins at the conveyor belt. Have a valid ID card readily available and follow the liquids rule of 3.4 ounces or less, with the exception of hand sanitizer, which has a temporary 12-ounce limit in carry-on baggage.
4. Contact TSA for help if there are questions or concerns. Those who are preparing to travel and may have special circumstances, considerations or general questions about airport screening can get live assistance by tweeting questions and comments to @AskTSA or via Facebook Messenger, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST and weekends/holidays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST. You can also call the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673.
5. Enroll now in TSA PreCheck® to "Travel with Ease." By enrolling in TSA PreCheck, airline passengers can avoid removing shoes, belts, liquids, food, laptops and light jackets at the TSA checkpoint. Most new enrollees receive their known traveler number within five days, and membership lasts for five years.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.