Travelers who took a break during the pandemic will notice changes at airports in the US when they resume trips. Understanding how travel security rules have changed due to COVID-19 will reduce wait times and inconvenience at airport security.
You’ll Need a Few More Plastic Bags
Rules about gels, aerosols, and liquids in carry-on bags still prohibit carrying more than 3.4 ounces of each product and require that travelers place these items in a quart-sized, resealable plastic bag. Now, however, carry-on food items must also be placed in plastic bags and put into the bins for screening at the airport.
There is one new exception: TSA is now allowing up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer in carry-on bags. Passengers must remove hand sanitizer from their carry-on and place it in the bins for separate screening, just as they do for food and the allowed 3.4 ounces of liquids.
Prohibited and Permitted Items
The TSA maintains a searchable list of prohibited and permitted items, indicating whether you can bring them in carry-on bags, checked bags, or whether you are not permitted to bring them at all. If your item isn’t on the list, you can take a picture of it and send it to TSA via their AskTSA account on Facebook or Twitter. The list covers everything from bug spray to household tools. Some items are permitted in checked bags but not carry-ons.
At the Airport
The number of security lanes may have been reduced because of fewer travelers. To reduce contact with surfaces, take loose items like phones, wallets, and keys from pockets and put them in carry-on bags for screening. The same goes for belts.
Wearing a mask is encouraged. Masks reduce the chance that an infected person (even if they are asymptomatic) will unwittingly infect others. Be aware, however, that TSA officers may ask passengers to remove or lower their masks for a moment for identification.
Security officers will be wearing masks, gloves, and optional face shields and will be sanitizing surfaces in the screening areas frequently. The same type of social distancing floor stickers or other signage you may have seen in your supermarket will appear in security checkpoints to encourage travelers to maintain a safe distance from one another.
Finally, travelers should hold on to their boarding passes and IDs instead of handing them to the officer. Instead, travelers will place boarding passes on the reader at the security checkpoint themselves. Then hold up both the ID and the boarding pass so the TSA officer can see it.
On May 21, 2020, TSA issued a press release summarizing the latest changes in security procedures. Individual airlines have additional rules on what they require of travelers to ensure passenger safety. When you are planning and packing for a trip, be sure to contact your airline for how their rules have changed due to COVID-19 and the specific procedures they impose on their flights.