As concerned as we are about the theme parks reopening, we should also be paying close attention to the TSA and the airline industry. Earlier today, the TSA just announced several new protocols, as a direct result of COVID-19. Here are changes you can expect to see:
Travelers will no longer hand their boarding pass to a TSA officer at the podium. Instead they should place the boarding pass, whether paper or electronic, on the electronic reader themselves, then hold it toward an officer who will “visually inspect” it.
In a press release, the agency said, “This change reduces the TSA officer’s need to touch a passenger’s boarding pass thus reducing the potential for cross-contamination.”
Travelers should be extra careful not to have prohibited items in their carry-on bags — such as more than 3.4 ounces of aerosol, liquids or gels — when going through security, TSA says.
Those found with prohibited items in their bags may be told to go outside security to remove it themselves. They may also need to remove items such as liquids, gels, aerosols and laptops or other large electronics and have their items X-ray screened again.
It’s the hope of the agency that by resolving alarms in this manner, TSA officers will need to touch the contents inside a carry-on bag much less frequently, reducing the potential for cross-contamination. Under the rules, each passenger is allowed to have one hand sanitizer bottle up to 12 ounces.
Any carry-on food should be put in separate clear plastic bags and placed in a bin when going through security, as food often triggers an alarm during screening.
The agency said, “Separating the food from the carry-on bag lessens the likelihood that a TSA officer will need to open the carry-on bag and remove the food items for a closer inspection.”
TSA PreCheck members will not be required to remove items from their bags.
TSA officers will wear face coverings at checkpoints, and passengers are encouraged to do the same. However, travelers may be required to adjust their coverage during the screening process.
TSA is encouraging social distancing whenever possible, without compromising security. The agency says it will increase the distance between people entering security, place visual reminders on the floor, and stagger lanes when possible.
Those who haven’t flown since the start of the coronavirus pandemic will also see some already-implemented changes. All TSA officers wear masks and gloves and some wear eye protection or face shields, according to the agency. They also change gloves after each pat-down and practice social distancing.
Plastic shields have been installed at podiums and search areas, and frequently touched surfaces in checkpoint areas are routinely cleaned and disinfected, TSA says.
Passengers are also encouraged to get to the airport early to allow for more time to get through security — a change since the early months of the pandemic when passengers were encouraged to arrive at security shortly before their departure.
TSA said, “Many airlines and airports are also providing specific COVID-19 related guidance to travelers; please check with your airline prior to your trip.” They also acknowledge that no two airports are alike, and things could look different at each airport.