New TSA rules – Pandemic travel regulations

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In response to COVID-19, procedure changes rolling out nationwide by mid-June
National Press Release
Thursday, May 21, 2020

  • WASHINGTON –  TSA has implemented changes to the security screening process that reduce the potential for cross-contamination at the security checkpoint in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. TSA has already begun implementation of these changes – with more to be implemented at airport checkpoints nationwide by mid-June.
  • “In the interest of TSA frontline workers and traveler health, TSA is committed to making prudent changes to our screening processes to limit physical contact and increase physical distance as much as possible,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “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.”
  • Over the past couple of weeks, TSA has experienced a steady growth of travelers coming through airport checkpoints. As procedure changes begin to rollout in the coming weeks, travelers should expect to:
  • Keep possession of their boarding passes. Instead of handing their boarding pass to a TSA officer at the travel document podium, travelers should now place their boarding pass (paper or electronic) on the boarding pass reader themselves. After scanning, travelers should hold their boarding pass toward the TSA officer to allow the officer to visually inspect it. This change reduces the TSA officer’s need to touch a passenger’s boarding pass thus reducing potential for cross-contamination.
  • Separate food for X-ray screening. Passengers should place their carry-on food items into a clear plastic bag and place that bag into a bin. 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. 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. TSA PreCheck members do not need to remove items from their bags. 
  • Pack smart. Passengers should take extra care to ensure that they do not have any prohibited items, such as liquids, gels or aerosols in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces, in their carry-on bags (water bottles, shampoo).
  • In response to COVID-19, TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger, in carry-on bags. Passengers are required to remove the hand sanitizer from the carry-on bag before being submitted for X-ray screening.
  • If a bag is found to contain a prohibited item, passengers may be directed to return to the divestiture table outside of security with their carry-on bags to remove the item and dispose of the item. The passenger may also be directed back outside of security to remove, items that should have originally been divested (such as laptops, liquids, gels, and aerosols, and large electronics) and resubmit their property for X-ray screening. By resolving alarms in this manner, TSA officers will need to touch the contents inside a carry-on bag much less frequently, reducing the potential for cross-contamination.
  • Practice social distancing. Passengers should allow for social distancing to reduce direct contact between employees and travelers whenever possible without compromising security. Noticeable adjustments leading up to the security checkpoint include, increasing the distance between individuals as they enter the security checkpoint, placing visual reminders of appropriate spacing on checkpoint floors and staggering the use of lanes where feasible.
  • No two airports are alike, so this could look a little different at each airport.
  • Wear facial protection. TSA officers at checkpoints are now using facial protection. Travelers are encouraged to wear face protection to the checkpoint as well. Please note, however, passengers may need to adjust it during the screening process.
  • Travelers are also encouraged to remove items such as belts, and items from their pockets, like wallets, keys and phones, and put them directly into their carry-on bags instead of into the bins to reduce touch-points during the screening process.
  • Travelers who have not flown since the pandemic are also likely to notice some other changes. They include:
    • Reduced security lane usage due to the reduction in passenger volume.
    • All TSA officers at checkpoints wearing masks and gloves.
    • TSA officers optionally wearing eye protection and clear plastic face shields at some locations.
    • TSA officers will continue the practice of changing gloves after each pat-down.
    • Plastic shielding installed at many travel document checking podiums, divest, bag search and drop off locations.
    • TSA officers practicing social distancing.
    • Routine cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces in the screening checkpoint area.

Many airlines and airports are also providing specific COVID-19 related guidance to travelers; please check with your airline prior to your trip. Travelers are encouraged to arrive at the airport early as COVID-19 has affected staffing and operations across the airport environment. This will allow adequate time for checking bags, completing security screening and getting to the departure gate. 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.
For more information on the TSA security screening process during the pandemic, visit www.tsa.gov/coronavirus.Read More

Travel in the New Normal

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Where will you travel, when you can travel again?
A Travel Professional “New Normal” travel series

Have you given this thought, like all of us, with confusion and wonder of what it will be like? Have you dreamed of vacations of the future only to enter into thoughts of the unimaginable? Do you fear that we will never be able to travel again with safety and confidence?

Let’s recall back to when being free to safely travel, became literally unheard of, directly after 9/11. Much like now, pretty much all travel stopped, for Corporate, the teleconference became the new normal for business meetings, today we have ZOOM. I was managing a corporate travel office at Stride Rite Corporation at that time. Travel became almost extinct. Our corporate travelers that had been doing round the world trips, visiting buyers and production plants completely stopped!  We had no clue on how it would commence. Air travel for business and vacations were cancelled! We slowly ventured into the unknown. And then a new set of rules came into place. Rules that shook travelers, rules that we would have balked at, incredulously laughed at and cringed at if proposed pre 9/11. Rules that we accepted as the “New Normal” to be able to travel again. Rules that are now so common, does anyone recall what it was like before TSA? And the rules got stricter as time went on, to adapt as the New Normal shifted with the threats of safety!

So now what? Can we even imagine? Do the temperature and virus testing at airlines/airports become the new TSA? Do masks become the new proof of identity? Does deep cleaning the plane finally become a norm that we wished had been there to protect us pre-Covid19?  Will we actually need a medical passport? Will what once was considered a threat, people with masks on, now be part of being safe from harm? Will we sadly, shy away from fellow passengers, once a way of societal norm of intermingling.

And what about the airlines? They will need to get back on stable grounds financially, but they will be forced to make changes that travelers have wanted to see in place for years! No middle seat. Truly cleaning the plane after each flight. No change fees! More flexibility in changes to travel. Will these “New Normal” procedures actually cause travel to cost more? Eventually? I cannot see how it cannot affect the cost, as the airlines try to stay in business!

What will the safe flight protocols entail and at what cost? We lost so much of our privacy with the new security procedures put in place after 9/11. Did you ever imagine that a perfect stranger could literally go through your personal belongings even your wallet and ask invasive questions, even taking away your possessions? So now what? Can we be denied boarding from a flight for not wearing a face mask, most likely. Will the people that have the coveted seats in the front of the plane be the last to board, pretty much so. Will we take on our own snacks, drinks, water and maybe pay more for our airline tickets with none of these minor benefits, count on it. 

We must also be prepared for longer lines as distance is enforced, and changes that can’t even be imagined still!


How will you choose to travel, when you can travel again? Will you choose villa style hotels or private rentals vs larger hotels? Will you cruise in confidence that the cruise lines are following new safety protocol? Will All-Inclusive properties still have the draw without mass dining options, buffets and close gatherings. Will you venture internationally, or stay domestic? Will you frequent hotels that have stripped down their services to such great extent, they are no longer recognized for the luxury levels of service that drew guests to their brands.

Hotels will possibly do away with bellman, valet and even housekeeping. Guests will do their own bedding changes, towel exchanges and trash collection with housekeeping in a most clandestine way! Love to have a drink, a snack, a cup of coffee in your room? That will also most likely go away in protection of you! All that will protect you, will compromise the very joys you once cherished when staying in a hotel. 

But just as the protocol have been put in place in prior emergencies, so will protocols be in place, for the safety of all. Hospitality will take on a new meaning, ghost like in actions, but there non the less.

What really matters is that we know that there are trusted resources to refer to, trusted professionals to reach out to, trusted travel providers to warmly welcome you! What we can be sure of is that what will be done, is to protect the safety of all. It is all a  must, to be the “New Normal”. We all will once again come to understand, times have changed where we cannot go back to “Normal” but that we move ahead to the “New Normal”

For now as we still venture into uncertainty, so does this blog, the musings of this travel professional. In future blogs I hope to bring you more updates, encouraging future of travel, safe, fun and effective…

For now we are armchair travelers. For now we let our dreams take us, our minds wander, our hearts embrace our wanderlust dreams. But rest assured, we will once again travel, we will once again read each page in that book of destinations waiting to explore. We will venture out, and then venture further and then connect again with cultures and heritages, locations and destinations. But until then…we dream…

Linda Mitchell ~ Your Trusted Travel ProfessionalRead More

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