TSA changes security procedures in response to COVID-19

·2 min read

Scan your own boarding pass. Separate your food. Practice social distancing.

These are things travelers should expect to do at airport checkpoints in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Transportation Security Administration. The changes are rolling out in the comings weeks to "reduce the potential for cross-contamination" and help fight the spread of the virus.

The TSA said passengers should expect to scan their boarding passes themselves, rather than hand them to agents. They should also put foods being carried on in clear plastic bags, and place them in bins for screening.

"Food items often trigger an alarm during the screening process; 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," the TSA said. "This requirement allows social distancing, reduces the TSA officer's need to touch a person's container of food and reduces potential for cross-contamination."

Travelers — who are now allowed to carry on a 12-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer — are also "encouraged" to wear facial protection and put items like belts and keys in their carry-ons rather than bins "to reduce touch-points" during security screenings.

Air travel started to plummet in early March as COVID-19 spread worldwide and cities locked down in response to what the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. The TSA said less than 88,000 travelers passed through its checkpoints on April 14 - down from more than 2 million around the same time a year ago.

Numbers have started to creep up since then. The TSA saw over 230,00 people pass through its checkpoints on Wednesday.

"Individuals who were traveling in the early months of the pandemic became accustomed to arriving at the security checkpoint shortly before their flight departure time. TSA recommends that travelers no longer do so (or arrive well in advance of their flight) since more people are flying and new procedures such as social distancing have been implemented in airports, potentially adding time to the pre-flight experience," the TSA said.

Several airlines are now requiring passengers to wear masks and most have said they're stepping up aircraft cleaning.

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