While the Memorial Day holiday weekend typically leads to a surge in air travel and ushers in a busy summer season, the Transportation Security Administration is preparing for what could be a very different summer.
The TSA announced Thursday that it will be rolling out a number of changes nationwide by mid-June to protect passengers and employees during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“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 a press 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.”
Air travel has dropped significantly over the past few months, as states implemented measures to slow the spread of coronavirus throughout the country. On Tuesday, May 19, just 190,477 went through TSA screening checkpoints nationwide down from 2,312,727 a year prior.
TSA noted that its seen a gradual increase in the number of travelers over the past couple of weeks.
Last Sunday, TSA reported 253,807 travelers visited checkpoints, which was the highest daily total since March 24.
Travelers should expect the following changes to be rolled out nationwide by mid-June:
Keep your boarding pass
Instead of handing your mobile or printed travel document to a TSA officer prior to screening, passengers will scan their own passes to reduce potential cross-contamination.
Passengers traveling through security with food will now be required to separate these items in a clear plastic bag. TSA explained that food items can trigger an alarm and require officers to open carry-on bags for closer inspection. Placing the items in a separate bag prevents officers from having to touch personal items. TSA Precheck members will not need to remove their food items from their luggage.
Social distancing signage
TSA said they are making adjustments to reduce contact between employees and travelers. This may be done through visual reminders on floors or through the staggering of security lanes.
With TSA requiring officers to wear facial protections, they are also encouraging travelers to do the same. However, passengers may need to remove these items in order to conduct a proper screening.
Hand sanitizer in carry-ons
Since mid-March, TSA has allowed for an exception for the amount of hand sanitizer liquid you can pack in a carry on bag. Instead of a 3.4 ounce restriction, TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces per passenger. Passengers are required to remove the container from any carry-on bag prior to X-ray screening.