As the coronavirus pandemic has changed practically every aspect of air travel, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has responded by changing its own protocol for passing through airport security checkpoints.
Travelers will notice a difference in the experience almost immediately when they step into the airport. Now, when travelers first enter the TSA area, they are required to scan their own boarding passes at security checkpoints instead of handing them over to TSA employees to examine.
One of the largest changes is that passengers are allowed to break the long-standing rule of liquids, gels, and aerosols. Travelers can now pack hand sanitizer in containers up to 12 ounces, but the hand sanitizer must be removed from luggage to pass through X-ray screening separately. All other liquids must be less than 3.4 fluid ounces. Passengers are reminded to double check for offending containers. If luggage is found to contain a prohibited item, the passenger may be asked to remove the item themselves.
Any meals or snacks taken through security should be removed from luggage and placed in a clear plastic bag in a separate tray. When loading your items onto security trays, take care to put personal belongings like your phone, keys, wallet, or belt inside your bag and not directly on the tray. This small measure will decrease the possibility of cross-contamination.
Over the past few weeks, the TSA has been installing acrylic barriers in major airports around the country. The barriers — designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between travelers and TSA agents — can be found at TSA podiums, X-ray and secondary search areas, and at checked baggage drop-off locations.
The TSA has also begun testing self-service facial recognition technology to verify passenger identity at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Passengers scan their own IDs and the machine verifies their identity and flight information. The TSA says that images are not stored and are only used for identity verification. If the pilot program at the Washington Airport is successful, the technology could soon roll out across the country.
Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. When in a new city, she's usually out to discover under-the-radar art, culture, and secondhand stores. No matter her location, you can find her on Twitter, on Instagram or at caileyrizzo.com.
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