TSA Launches Stricter Screening Guidelines

June 14, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Enhanced carry-on screening procedures that were tested at 10 U.S. airports during last summer’s peak travel season have now been implemented across the entire security system, which are adding some extra steps to the TSA security check process. The biggest change comes in how travelers must handle their personal electronic devices.

While it has been a requirement for years that laptops be removed from carry-on luggage and placed in a separate bin, now any personal electronic device larger than a cell phone must also be screened outside the bag. The list includes tablets, e-readers, and handheld gaming systems, while batteries for charging these devices have not yet made the list.

“By separating personal electronic items such as laptops, tablets, e-readers, and handheld game consoles for screening, TSA officers can more closely focus on resolving alarms and stopping terror threats,” said TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia.

TSA Checkpoint - Road Warriors know to avoid this by being a part of TSA's Pre-CheckTravelers carrying food and powders through security may also be subject to removal so TSA officers may obtain clear x-ray images. The administration advises travelers to keep their bags uncluttered and organized in order to avoid being selected additional screening of specific items. Also, be aware that some of your items may just call for extra screening anyway, so add some extra time and don’t cut your flight time so close.

For example, carrying a stack of books in your bag may get you pulled aside for additional screening. I know of one person who was traveling with six of his books in his bag to sell at a speaking event, and they showed up as a dense mass on the TSA x-ray machine. So a TSA agent checked each book to ensure there weren’t any explosives inside the pages of the book. The whole process only took an additional 10 minutes, but that could have been a problem if his flight was boarding at that moment.

Individuals with TSA PreCheck are exempt from the new regulations, which is just one more reason to sign up for the security-skipping program.

Staples, the office supply chain, in partnership with security firm, IDEMIA, has announced it will make applying for the five-year priority screening available using 50 IdentoGo enrollment centers at stores in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle this summer. For $85, PreCheck-approved travelers can leave their shoes on and do not have to remove any liquids, electronic devices, belts, or jackets as they go through security.

What plans or contingencies do you have for these new TSA screening guidelines? Have you already experienced them? What did you think? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter page.

Photo credit: NJTVNews (YouTube, Creative Commons)

What to Do if you Lose your ID Before a Flight

June 12, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

You’ve checked every pocket, looked in every drawer, retraced your steps over the last seven days, and the worst has happened: you lost your ID, and you’re flying back home in a few hours.

Before you have a meltdown in your hotel room or Uber and wail like Dorothy, “There’s no place like home!” there’s good news: You can still fly home, even if you’ve lost your identification. It won’t be as easy as clicking your heels together, but it can be done.

Check-in desk at Athens International Airport. Start here if you ever lose your ID.Let’s start with the basics. Get to the airport as early as possible, because this is going to take some time. Your first stop should be at your airline’s check-in counter to report the situation to a representative.

They have the power to grant you permission to proceed to your next step — security — provided you have other forms of identification — a credit card in your name, or even a digital copy of your birth certificate, driver’s license, or passport. This is why you should take photos of those documents and keep them in a secure place, like Evernote or Google Drive.

Even some other document that states your name and address, such as an electric bill or official correspondence, will work. Keep in mind that the airlines will not issue you a refund if you miss your flight because you have this problem, so you have to get there early.

Once the airline representative is satisfied you are who you say you are, you may think you’re over the rainbow. Sadly, you’re not. You still have to pass through security. Many people come and go so quickly here, but that will not be your experience. TSA will ask you the same questions again, so don’t treat them poorly — your clearance depends on their goodwill, so if you create a scene, you might not be getting on that plane. Go willingly with them to the separate room they’ll likely take you to, and be as polite and patient as possible.

After their additional screening is complete, you’ll be free to head to your gate and board your flight. If, however, this happens while you’re traveling abroad, your best first course of action is to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy to get the process underway to get replacement passports.

But if you want to expedite the process and save yourself some headaches later, here are two suggestions: 1) Have scans of your birth certificate, driver’s license, and passport stored in the cloud so you can access them with your phone in case this ever happens. 2) Storing hard copies of those documents in a secret spot in your suitcase is best if you’re traveling abroad.

With some luck, plenty of patience, not to mention politeness, you’ll be at your final destination in no time, with a great story to tell, and hopefully a short delay on getting a replacement ID.

Have you ever lost your ID before a flight? How did you manage? Any suggestions on how to navigate the process? Tell us about it on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Leonid Mamchenkov (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

Which Airlines Accept TSA PreCheck?

October 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

TSA PreCheck has been available since October 2011 and saved countless travelers countless hours of standing in security lines at the airport. If you’re a frequent flier who has gone through the screening process and paid the $85 fee (good for five years) to obtain your known traveler number, you might be surprised to learn that there are still airlines that do not accept it.

With 37 domestic and international airlines and 200 US airports currently participating in the program, the odds of not being able to use PreCheck only increase if you are flying domestically from a smaller airport or you’re flying internationally on one of the following airlines.

TSA PreCheck sign showing the way to an empty pathway, next to a line packed with people.If you’e a PreCheck member, you won’t be able to use the following airlines: Aer Lingus, Air France, British Airways, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, EasyJet, EgyptAir, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Nippon Airways, Norwegian Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Ryanair.
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Packing Food for Air Travel

August 29, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Are you trying to stay on track with that new diet you’re on, but you have a business trip, and the thought of running the food court gauntlet without getting tripped up by some tempting food has you considering quitting? Do you have a dietary restriction that makes finding allergen-free food in the airport next to impossible?

Have you considered packing some snacks or meals to eat while you fly? You can take food through the TSA security checkpoints, you just have to know what food falls under its liquid restrictions — the 3-1-1 rule —and pack accordingly.

Although water bottles or other beverages must not exceed 3.4 ounces, don’t automatically assume you can’t bring items such as packets of nut butters or salad dressing. Just be sure the amount you’re bringing through security is less than 3.4 ounces/100ml. The liquid restrictions also apply to ice and gel packs as well, so be sure to time your arrival at the airport so those frozen food products are still frozen solid.
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American, United Launch Automated Screening at O’Hare

January 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Just in time for the recent busy holiday travel season, American and United both launched automated screening lanes in order to help lessen the bottleneck in the TSA checkpoints, a serious problem travelers faced in summer 2016.

The two airlines followed the lead of Delta, which partnered with TSA in May 2016 at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. Delta underwrote $1 million dollars of the total TSA investment to bring the automation to the Atlanta airport.
United and American Airlines have installed automated screening at Chicago O'Hare Airport
The automated screening lanes feature the following innovations:

  • Stainless steel countertops that enable several passengers to place their items in bins simultaneously;
  • Automated conveyor belts that draw bins into the X-ray machines, and return them to the front of the queue;
  • Bags identified as a potential threat are automatically pushed to a separate area to allow bins behind it to continue through the screening process uninterrupted;
  • Property bins that are 25 percent larger than the bins in standard screening lanes in order to accommodate roller bags; Read more

How Airports Can Get Rid of the TSA

October 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Who hasn’t thought while standing in a slow-moving TSA security line, “Couldn’t somebody do this better than the federal government?” There actually is somebody, and there may be a way for your airport to replace the TSA with a private firm.

And after a very hectic travel summer, with reports of up-to-three-hour waits at some security lines, a lot of people started asking that question.

A relatively unknown program, actually operated by the TSA, called the Partnership Screening Program, allows the federal agency to receive bids from private security firms to replace the TSA’s services at the nation’s municipal airports. The private contractors provide screening under federal oversight, and must offer similar wages and benefits for their employees.

The TSA Security lines at Denver International Airport

In fact, the option to fire the TSA dates back to the inception of the agency in 2002 after the September 11 terrorist attacks. At that time, five airports were allowed to contract with private firms as a way for Congress to assess and compare its approach with one offered by the private sector: San Francisco; Kansas City, MO; Rochester, NY; Tupelo, MS; and Jackson, WY.

Kansas City and San Francisco’s international airports were the only two major airports in that original five. But since then, 17 other regional airports around the country have fired the TSA and, with the exception of Kansas City, contracted with Trinity Technology Group, a Department of Homeland Security Safety Act certified company, for their security screening process. Kansas City works with Akal Security.
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Homeland Security Asks Airlines to Eliminate Baggage Fees

October 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Travel was pretty difficult for some this past summer, as the TSA struggled to clear long lines at the security checkpoints. Travelers faced waits as long as three hours, causing them to miss their flights. The ordeal was eventually sorted, and people were able to get to their destinations as usual.

But this problem could be avoided, said the TSA and a few Washington lawmakers, if the airlines would just get rid of their checked baggage fees.
The TSA Security lines at Denver International Airport
Jeh Johnson, the head of Homeland Security, and TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger asked the nation’s airlines to consider waiving or eliminating baggage fees in order to encourage more people to check bags and alleviate the security process clogged by travelers who only have carry-ons.

Not surprisingly, the airlines said no. They’ve had these fees in place since 2007, and it’s how they have been able to remain profitable. How can you do your part to keep the security line moving? Here are some simple, practical reminders to consider:

  • Apply for TSA PreCheck. Even if you only travel once a year, at $85 for five years’ certification, you’ll eliminate most of the hassle that comes with the regular TSA lines: you won’t have to take off your shoes or jacket, unpack your toiletries, or remove your laptop.
  • Make sure your toiletries are the standard 3.4 ounces and that the bag you carry them in is transparent and accessible, like a kitchen reclosable bag.
  • Wear slip-on shoes so you don’t hold up the line untying shoes or unzipping boots. If you can’t do this, loosen the laces or unzip the zipper so that you can ease your feet out quickly. Read more

Border Patrol Wants to Access Visitors’ Social Media

August 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Visitors entering the United States may be asked to provide US Customs and Border Protection with their social media account information. This would be a new question added to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and I-94W forms.

We’re not sure how we feel about that.

On the one hand, these forms already supply information about citizenship, residency, passport, and contact information. With this, it’s easy enough to get social media information. Just go to your favorite social network, and search for the person’s name.

Patch_of_the_United_States_Border_PatrolAccording to the Office of the Federal Register, a publication that lists proposed and final administrative regulations, this data would be used for “screening alien visitors for potential security risks to national security and determining admissibility to the United States.”
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TSA Wants 25 million Travelers to choose Precheck and Global Entry

May 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

What’s the worst part of the travel experience? Take an informal poll and you’ll find “going through security” to be in the top three, if not number one. Since 9/11, Americans have developed strategies for removing their shoes, unloading their laptops, and shrinking their toiletries to three ounce travel sizes in order to streamline their security screening.

TSA Pre-Check signWhat if you could skip all that rigamarole and stroll through security without removing anything? You can, and The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) wants to tell you how. While many frequent business travelers are familiar with Precheck, TSA is on a campaign to get more travelers to sign up.

The process is relatively simple: you fill out a form online and schedule a brief, in-person interview at the airport where you present the required documentation (a passport, driver’s license, or birth certificate) and are fingerprinted. The $85 fee provides Precheck security clearance for five years.
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Gatwick Airport Tests Hi-Tech Security and Passenger Technology

August 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Remember how impressed you were the first time you saw an airport faucet that turned on automatically when you waved your hand in front of them? (Don’t pretend you weren’t!)

It’s almost shocking how far airports have come technologically since then. Case in point: Gatwick Airport’s chief information officer, Michael Ibbitson, recently told FutureTravelExperience.com about the new technology that’s not just wowing passengers, but also streamlining the passenger experience and making travel safer for everyone. Let’s take a look at some of the technological advances Gatwick has made.

Speeding Up Bag Check

English: Gatwick South Terminal Zone K check-i...

Gatwick South Terminal Zone K check-in concourse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Automated bag check and check-in are technologies well on their way to mass adoption at this point, but Gatwick is aiming to make them more efficient than ever.

EasyJet has been testing a bag drop system fueled by Phase 5 Technology at its Gatwick hub. According to Ibbitson, the average passenger took 76 seconds to process — the goal is to get passengers through in 45 — so they’re tweaking the system, working toward maximum efficiency.

Automated Security

One of the major headaches of air travel, no matter how far you’re traveling, is getting through security. Gatwick is attempting to make security checkpoints smoother by automating them — the systems installed in 2012 have cut wait time to an average of a mere 107 seconds — and installing Security Max lanes that will enable even more passengers to prepare for the checkpoint at once.

Iris Scanning Technology

The wildest technology we read about: Biometrics as a single passenger token. The gist is that when you check in at the airport and drop your bag off, a machine also scans your iris — an identity marker that’s almost impossible to forfeit — and all your passenger information, from baggage tracking to your passport and boarding pass, is encoded into the scan.

A single scan of your iris is all it takes to move you through the rest of the travel process throughout the airport — and even at your destination.

According to the Future Travel Experience post, this technology is well within reach — it’s the widespread implementation of the technology at airports worldwide that will take some time.

What technology would you most like to see implemented in your favorite airport? The sky’s the limit, so they say — leave a comment with your loftiest technology dreams.

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