The TSA screening process will look a little different next time you pass through an airport. The agency is adjusting its passenger screening protocols to reduce touch points where travelers and screeners must interact. The goal is to reduce potential for cross-contamination at the checkpoint. Adjustments are already rolling out across the country, with a nationwide deployment expected by mid-June.
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. 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.– TSA Administrator David Pekoske
Hang on to your boarding pass
Travelers using mobile boarding passes are already familiar with the idea of scanning the barcode themselves. Passengers with paper passes will soon do the same. Rather than handing the pass over to the TSA agent to mark up as part of the ID verification passengers will retain possession through the screening, though they will be asked to “hold their boarding pass toward the TSA officer” enabling further inspection.
Revamping the rescreening process
If a bag goes through screening with possible contraband inside the process today calls for the agents to open said bag, remove items, and rescreen the collection. This will shift under the new SOP.
Rather than the TSA agents handling the resorting of bag contents passengers will more frequently be directed out of the secure area to redo the divestiture process. This applies to both prohibited items and “items that should have originally been divested (such as laptops, liquids, gels, and aerosols, and large electronics)” requiring the bag to be resubmitted for X-ray screening. As with the new boarding pass rules the goal is for TSA agents to “touch the contents inside a carry-on bag much less frequently, reducing the potential for cross-contamination.”
The TSA also reminds passengers that social distancing remains in play, despite airports generally not having sufficient space for truly separating all travelers that much. Still, the Agency expects to see increased distances between individuals entering the checkpoint and markings on the floor to remind passengers of the spacing requirement. The TSA will also stagger flow of passengers through different lanes where possible, though it also notes that generally fewer lanes will be open owing to lower passenger volumes and, therefore, lower staffing levels.
In line with global standards
The TSA adjustments mesh with recently introduced recommendations from IATA to reduce passenger interactions with staff as much as possible. On Tuesday the industry trade group suggested, among other things, that touchless processes be enabled wherever possible.
Reducing the interactions between TSA agents and passengers fits into that model. So, too, does the plan for increased spacing at the checkpoints and for TSA agents to wear masks while on duty.