Traveling by air in the United States could become complicated.
After a year and a half of secret testing and two months of overt expanded tests, former pilot carry-on screening procedures are now the national standard. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) made the announcement on July 26th.
The new protocol mandates separate X-ray screenings for all electronics larger than a cell phone. Devices under scrutiny include: laptops, e-readers, tablets, and handheld gaming devices. Passengers will be required to remove all said electronics from carry-ons and place them in a separate bin. There can be nothing above or below the electronics, and devices cannot overlap. Once the items have passed inspection, they can be returned to carry-on luggage.
TSA officers stationed in front of checkpoint X-ray machines will guide travelers through the new TSA screening procedure. While the organization hopes this will help speed up the process, the TSA encourages travelers to organize carry-ons in advance.
The announcement comes a few weeks after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced new international aviation security standards. New TSA screenings will increase domestic security standards as the U.S simultaneously requires international partners to upgrade their security.
Advice for Managing New TSA Screening
Depending on how the new policy is rolled out, travelers could face extended wait times or no disruption at all. However, if you’d like to stack to odds in your favor, follow these tips:
- Cut Down on Devices: Traveling with fewer devices means fewer items to unpack for scanning. When in doubt, ditch that e-reader you never use and stick to the essentials.
Keep Electronics Separated in your Carry-On: If you need to bring multiple electronics, invest in a carry-on with several pockets or dividers. This allows you to separate items that require unpacking from items that can remain untouched. You’ll save time and avoid the stress of hastily unpacking/repacking your belongings in front of an impatient line!
The ten airports that took part in the recent extended testing will most likely adopt the new policies immediately. Because of this, the advice above is extremely pertinent for travelers passing through:
Arizona: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
California: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Colorado Springs Airport (COS)
Florida: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
Idaho: Boise Airport (BOI)
Massachusetts: Logan International Airport (BOS)
Michigan: Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
Nevada: McCarran International Airport (LAS)
Puerto Rico: Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU)
Texas: Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport (LBB)
Avoiding Impacts from TSA Screenings
If you’re a frequent traveler and want to avoid additional delays from new TSA screenings, you’re in luck.
The new TSA screening policies only apply to standard screening lanes. Passengers enrolled in TSA PreCheck who use TSA PreCheck lanes are exempt from new screening protocols. The program is currently available at 200+ airports and will be immensely useful when the policy roll-out is complete.
If you’re interested in applying for TSA PreCheck, here’s what you’ll need to do:
Step One: Pre-Enroll Online
In order to determine PreCheck candidacy, travelers must complete a pre-enrollment application. The form collects basic biographical and contact information in order to assess a traveler’s candidacy. The TSA manages a website specifically for pre-enrollment applications, which can be found here.
Step Two: Schedule a Background Check
Within 120 days of submitting the form, applicants are required to schedule an in-person appointment. Applicants must bring several documents to this appointment for identity verification. The types of documents needed vary by citizenship. In order to determine the documents needed for your appointment, view the TSA’s Required Documents form.
In addition, applicants can expect a brief, 10-minute interview to discuss personal information and travel needs, both past and future. Applicants must also supply fingerprints at this appointment.
Finally, the appointment concludes with a non-refundable, $85 processing fee. Accepted payments include credit card, cashier check, or money order; neither cash nor personal checks are accepted.
Step Three: Application Processing and Verification
It takes roughly 45 days for applications to be processed once the in-person appointment is complete. Once application status is available, individuals receive a notification letter. In addition, application status can be checked on the TSA’s website at any time.
Approved applicants will receive a nine-digit Known Traveler Number (KTN). The identifier marks the accepted applicant as a low-risk traveler, pre-approved by U.S Customs and Border Protection. In order for airlines to recognize pre-clearance status, the KTN must be included during flight registration.
Once approved, TSA PreCheck is valid for five years. After five years, applicants must repeat the approval process.
We will be monitoring the TSA screening policy implementation to offer additional insight and advice; stay tuned.