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TSA Goes Mobile

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Monday, July 26, 2010
Screen shot of My TSA app on smart phone.

Whether you fly twice a month or a few times a year, if you get injured on vacation, lose your ID, or pick up a special souvenir on a trip, you might need information to help you get through the security checkpoint. We know that sometimes those questions come late at night, on a weekend, or right before you leave for your trip, so you don’t have a lot of time to get the answer.

So to help travelers get the information they might need quickly and easily, we launched the MyTSA mobile web app and iPhone app to put the information you need right at your fingertips.

To get the iPhone app, you can download MyTSA on iTunes for free, or look for it on the USA.gov Apps gallery. You can find MyTSA on your smart phone at www.tsa.gov/mobile.

On the iPhone app, you can choose to enable the GPS function, which will automatically pull up information from the nearest large airport. If you'd rather not enable GPS, the GPS doesn’t pull up the airport nearest you, or you want to search for a specific airport, you can decline and enter an airport manually. On the mobile web app, you just enter your airport manually.

The “Airport Status” function provides general airport conditions and delays for U.S. airports, courtesy of the Federal Aviation Administration. On the iPhone, you’ll see a map with red, yellow and green dots to note airport statuses and when you click on the dot, you’ll get delay information. On the mobile web version, you’ll get a list of airports with delays, or you can search by specific airport.

The “Can I Bring” tool was designed to answer the most commonly asked questions to TSA’s Contact Center about items passengers want to bring onto a plane. These questions make up about 70% of the calls and e-mails to the Contact Center, so by pushing this information out and making it available 24/7, we hope to reduce the time and energy for people to get the information they need, and save some TSA resources while we’re at it. Just enter the item you want to pack, and the tool will tell you if it’s permitted and which bag you should put it in.

Here are some tips to get the most out of the tool:

  • Just type the item, for example, “baseball bat” - don’t include “my,” “a.”
  • Only enter one item at a time.
  • Make sure you’ve spelled the item correctly.
  • Enter “deodorant” instead of “Old Spice Deodorant.” In most cases, avoid brand names.
  • Instead of typing a general item like “food,” be more specific and type “apple,” “sandwich,” or “yogurt.”

If you type an item and it’s not in the database, you can submit it to TSA for consideration. We update the database regularly.

The “TSA Guide” includes information on TSA’s liquids rules, information on IDs, and tips for military travelers, travelers with children and those with special needs.

Lastly, the app enables travelers to see wait time information posted by other travelers, and return the favor by posting their wait time. Calculate your wait time by noting how long it takes from when you get in line to when you get your travel documents checked.

We’re looking at feedback to continually improve it so that it meets travelers’ needs, and will keep you posted on improvements here on the blog.

Lynn
TSA Blog Team

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

Will TSOs now be required to use this to check the rules when they don't know what's going on? Or will they continue to have discretion to make up rules on the spot, regardless of what TSA's stated policies are?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Kudos to you, TSA. The app really wasn't necessary since the same info is available on your site but I understand many people like to use apps.

But then you go back to being the old TSA when you say, "Calculate your wait time by noting how long it takes from when you get in line to when you get your travel documents checked."

This is just cheating. The real wait time is from entering the line until a passengers gets all the way through security.

At the very least, include a note in the app that passengers should add another 20 minutes to their wait time. For some, that can be the difference between making a flight and missing one.

Submitted by Earl Pitts on

How many of these "answers" from the app are going to be something like "screener discretion", "depends on the screener" or "At some airports it's ok, at others it's not. Each airport is different"?

Anyone else trust TSA NOT to make this a spyware app?

Earl

Submitted by Anonymous on

Little early in the week for puppy posts isn't it? How about answering anyone of the multitude of questions?

Submitted by Frank Buddenbrock on

What a great idea- making this info available on cell phones.

Now that my aging father has been diagnosed as a borderline diabetic, our whole world has changed- new dietary considerations, exercise programs, what can he bring on a plane, eye exams, etc.

Your new program is one more way that makes his new revelation liveable.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why should we measure wait time from the document checker instead of from the actual tail of the line? The document checked is invariably only about 10 feet from the checkpoints, while there is usually hundred of feet, or yards on bad days, of line them. Is this a way you have redefined wait time in order to keep it low?

Submitted by Anonymous on

What information can TSA extract from peoples I-Phones that is being kept secret?

I would never put something that TSA suggests on my phone.

Submitted by Mark on

Any word on an Android version??

Submitted by Isaac Newton on

First, Lynn, you've misprinted the URL for the mobile site, it should be .gov, not .go. These details matter on the internet.

Second, we all remember last November when Britney Spears famously took her "Big Gulp" through the checkpoint at LAX, and Bob told us (Blog 11.03.2009):
What really happened was Ms. Spears had a cup with a few ice chips. Ice and other frozen solid liquids are permitted as long as they’re frozen solid and X-ray screened.

Several of us have been waiting for TSA to update its website to clarify this, because the current text only refers to ice for cooling medicine or other "special needs", not to have ice cubes in a "Big Gulp" cup.

So I put "ice" into your mobile app. I was offered several choices, including "ice pack", "ice pick", "ice axe", "dry ice", "ice skates" and so on. But nothing for just plain old "ice cubes" in a paper cup.

Well, let's try "ice pack" then. Your app says:
TSA allows larger amounts of medically necessary liquids, gels, and aerosols in reasonable quantities for your trip, but you must declare them to security officers at the checkpoint for inspection.

We recommend, but do not require, that your medications be labeled to facilitate the security process.

You may carry non-medically necessary liquids, gels and aerosols in your carry-on bags only if they adhere to the 3-1-1 rule: containers must be 3.4 ounces or less; stored in a 1 quart/liter zip-top bag; 1 zip-top bag per person. Larger amounts of non-medicinal liquids, gels, and aerosols must be placed in checked baggage.

Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns. The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane.

Hmm. Not one word in there about ice. At all. The word "ice" doesn't even appear.

What gives?

By the way, it appears that every entry includes that final paragraph that says "Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it ... poses other security concerns. The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane." In other words, even if your little app says something is okay, the TSA person at the checkpoint can say otherwise. Sort of defeats the whole purpose, doesn't it?

Submitted by Isaac Newton on

Part 3 of 3 (initial single post rejected as too long.)

Finally, Lynn, it appears that every entry includes that final paragraph that says "Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it ... poses other security concerns. The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane." In other words, even if your little app says something is okay, the TSA person at the checkpoint can say otherwise. Sort of defeats the whole purpose, doesn't it?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Neat. Hopefully this will help the passengers. Now prepare for an onslaught of puppy post comments and questions/comments that have nothing to do with this particular topic and are probably semi-offensive at times.

Almost 8 yrs TSO

Submitted by Bubba on

Can that iPhone application tell us when the TSA is finally gong to answer the extensive article in the top scientific journal Nature saying that there is no science behind the SPOT program?

Does it have access to the "Watch list", so I can find out ahead of time if my 6 year old niece will be harassed at the airport?

If I download it, will I be able to see the images generated of my own body using your "advanced imaging techniques"?

Will it tell me why the TSA thinks zip-lock baggies make small bottles of liquids "safer"?

If not, it is of no use to me.

Submitted by Lynn on

Thanks to those who caught the typo in the post with the "v" missing from the link to the mobile app. My apologies.

Lynn, TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

Lynn, if a TSO refuses to allow me to enter the secure area with an item the app says is allowed, will showing the screen from the app saying such item is allowed be sufficient to allow me into the secure area with said item? Or is it, as always, "up to the screener's discretion"? And if it is up to the screener's discretion, what, exactly, is the point of the app?

Submitted by Anonymous on

So when I get to the checkpoint and the TSO says my item is verboten, can I show him where the app says my item is OK? Will he accept that? Or will he claim screener discretion and ignore official TSA policy?

Also, you should modify the app and list the supervisor/manager's name for that airport so we can know who to talk to about problems.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why are the other threads not being updated in a timely manner?

Submitted by TSM, Been on

So, now that we are told to no longer track wait times - how is this gonna help? Are we gonna get a whole load of irate passengers who show up late and say "But my TSA App said there was only a 10 minute wait time....!"

How about all the passengers that can't read the 2 foot by 3 foot signs we already have about prohibs showing up and saying "But my TSA App told me i could take it.. let me show you..."

Great, now I get to argue with an iphone!

Submitted by Anonymous on

But then you go back to being the old TSA when you say, "Calculate your wait time by noting how long it takes from when you get in line to when you get your travel documents checked."
___________________________________
Wait time at my airport is recorded from the back of the line (someone walks it all the way out) till that person walks through the metal detector. This is just an assumption, but it should be the same at every checkpoint.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Will it tell me why the TSA thinks zip-lock baggies make small bottles of liquids "safer"?
___________________________________
Ziplock baggies have nothing to do with making small bottles of liquid safer! The quart size baggie simply puts a regulation on the amount of liquids that can be brought through the checkpoint.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Little early in the week for puppy posts isn't it? How about answering anyone of the multitude of questions?
_________________________________
This blog is like answer questions for a kindergarden class. The puppy post comments are getting old. How ridiculous you all sound!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Is this app authoritative or is it just like the list of things allowed that's on the website?

In other words, if a TSO says "you can't take this thingamajig with you on the plane!" does flashing my iPhone to show thingamajigs are allowed carry any weight?

Or will what you can carry on a plane continue to be an exercise in frustration, with no regard for official policy and subject only to the whims of the TSO who happens to be on the lane?

I just want to make sure I don't have to "voluntarily surrender" my car key is all...

Submitted by Anonymous on

So what are the odds that a TSO doesn't allow an item, even though the app says it's ok and then claim the app is "out of date"

Submitted by Anonymous on

Im not downloading an app that will let tsa into my phone. This is just another way the gov can track us. Shame on you...is it free right?

Submitted by PDX TSO on

For those of you asking for an Android version, I feel your pain, since I use a Droid phone as well. What we've been told is that you can use the mobile web version through your browser, which has most of the functionality, and they're working on an Android app, but it'll likely take some time. They probably also want to see how popular the iPhone one is before committing too many resources to the Android one.

Submitted by Phil on

Lynn, the TSA application states, "All passengers 18 and over will need one of the following to go through security," then lists 10 forms of government-issued identity credentials. Isn't it true that "showing ID" is optional -- that passengers do not need that which the application states they need -- and simply earns passengers a less-thorough search of their belongings and avoidance of extra questioning?

-- 
Phil
Showing ID only affects honest people.
What if the people with the power to secretly put your name on a "no-fly" list didn't like the reason for which you want to fly?

Submitted by 5 11 Tactial Dude on

OH GREAT! I always get stuck behind those people who are too busy with their heads pointed down in their phones to keep the line moving forward!! I guess I am old, but THOSE people.... (mashing away with their thumbs involved in some "important" conversation...) drive me nuts!

Well I guess now it will be a wash... I mean TSA is encouraging this behavior, but now by the time they get up front maybe they will have their bags squared away!

J/K TSA! Good job on this one... EVERYDAY more and more people use apps on their cell phones... TSA is ahead of the game on this one by embracing this trend...

I am sure 10 years from now people will wonder what we did before all those crazy cell phone apps?... Read a Sign?!?! Barbaric!

Submitted by Chris Boyce on

Hey, Lynn,

Just curious why you censored my comment? I sent it about 30 minutes after you had uploaded the main posting. Everything and everybody on my list was in the public domain (and I'm happy to provide links to numerous newspaper articles on each of them), including names of public officials.

Chris Boyce

Submitted by Anonymous on

Two million people a day go through TSA checkpoints. If it was as bad a the whiners at this blog say, no one would fly.

Get over it. The government controls are here to stay. They know better than you do.

Submitted by Lynn on

@ Anonymous:

What information can TSA extract from peoples I-Phones that is being kept secret?

Nothing at all. We push info through the app; we don't collect anything.

Submitted by Lynn on

@Eric:

You can pull up the mobile web version on your Palm Pre. We have both mobile web and iPhone versions.

Thanks for writing,

Lynn, TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Lynn on

@ Anonymous:

Lynn, if a TSO refuses to allow me to enter the secure area with an item the app says is allowed, will showing the screen from the app saying such item is allowed be sufficient to allow me into the secure area with said item? Or is it, as always, "up to the screener's discretion"? And if it is up to the screener's discretion, what, exactly, is the point of the app?

For the vast majority of people who bring permitted items through, there's no problem and if the app tells them it's okay, it will be okay. But take the case where in the X-ray, an officer saw gun parts in a laptop where the battery was supposed to be - that would require additional screening and might not be let through. That goes for the package of playing cards with bullets inside of it, the teddy bear with pocket knives hidden in the stuffing, the infant carrier with the knife hidden in the fabric lining, and other items that seem harmless but have been tampered with or alarm for explosives and the alarm can't be resolved. That's why the last paragraph is written into answers in the Can I Bring answers on the app.

Thanks for writing,

Lynn, TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Lynn on

@ Bubba:

Can that iPhone application tell us when the TSA is finally gong to answer the extensive article in the top scientific journal Nature saying that there is no science behind the SPOT program?

Does it have access to the "Watch list", so I can find out ahead of time if my 6 year old niece will be harassed at the airport?

If I download it, will I be able to see the images generated of my own body using your "advanced imaging techniques"?

Will it tell me why the TSA thinks zip-lock baggies make small bottles of liquids "safer"?

The answers to your questions are: no, no, no and, as has been written on the blog before, the one quart bag and the 3.4 ounce bottles limit the amount of liquids that can be brought onto the cabin of the plane. The liquids rule was created using research from explosives experts here and abroad to end the total liquid ban that was put in place immediately after the August 2006 UK liquids plot was foiled.

Lynn, TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Avxo on

Lynn wrote: "For the vast majority of people who bring permitted items through, there's no problem and if the app tells them it's okay, it will be okay."

Well, except for: "the case of gun parts in a laptop where the battery was supposed to be [...] package of playing cards with bullets inside of it, the teddy bear with pocket knives hidden in the stuffing, the infant carrier with the knife hidden in the fabric lining"

You forgot the most dangerously ridiculous item of all: dark matter stuffed in vitamin pills.

For crying out loud Lynn, we were hoping for a rational answer; not the sort of ridiculous scenarios you just concocted. I don't mean ridiculous in the sense that they would never happen; rare as those instances might be, all clearly involve contraband; and in that sense your answer is is ridiculous because you are basically stating "contraband isn't allowed." Well, gee, thanks.

We are asking about legitimate, non contraband items, that some TSA personnel insist on not letting through. Things like car keys that fold into the fob and spring open. Things like nail clippers. Things like additional laptop batteries.

But I guess maybe your local Wal*Mart has "Exploding Hello Kitty Teddy Bear with free DVD!" and you assume that's a commonly carried item by the traveling public at large.

[Sorry for the sarcasm, but sheesh... Lynn's answer was ludicrous!]

Submitted by Anonymous on

Lynn

which or who are these"explosive experts". To date there is no peer reviewed data to back your assertion.

as for your reply about the app. instead of answering the question you dodged it with some off the wall scenario. So when a screener denies (website/app is not up to date or just makes it up) something at the checkpoint that the app says its fine, will TSA reprimand that screener for wrongfully taking a travelers property as well as pay out a claim for the item that was wrongfully taken from the person?

Submitted by Bubba on

Lynn,

I´m afraid you are irony-impaired.

Please direct me to the sources of your "research" regarding the liquids policy. Just because it is better than a total ban does not make it any good (or scientifically sound).

And also, if the baggie is to limit the total amount, why not just limit the total amount? Why determine that it must be a zip lock baggie? Why is a flip-top or any other format not OK? Are you aware that zip locks are very hard to find abroad and most certainly are not sold in quart sizes (or liters, for that matter)?

Oh, and I appreciate you admitting that the TSA has no intent to ever answer that extensive, in depth, article in the top scientific journal Nature stating there is no science behind your programs.

Submitted by Vmohar98 on

Now that TSA has launched the app - will TSA make the security wait times data available for public consumption? TSA used to make this data public but stopped at some point and has not opened that data yet.

Submitted by Anonymous on

im pretty sure you can take just about anything on a plane, including guns but you have to put them in your checked bags. yes the ever so inconvient checked bag. It is an answer to most of the questions on here. Whatever you are askin about can go in your checked baggage. A very simple solution, but you will have to wait once you get off the plane for you baggage, a terrible ordeal.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"They know better than you do."

They think 3.5 ounces of Purel and a flip-flop can bring down a jetliner.

Submitted by RB on

The answers to your questions are: no, no, no and, as has been written on the blog before, the one quart bag and the 3.4 ounce bottles limit the amount of liquids that can be brought onto the cabin of the plane. The liquids rule was created using research from explosives experts here and abroad to end the total liquid ban that was put in place immediately after the August 2006 UK liquids plot was foiled.

Lynn, TSA Blog Team
.................
If the limit is truly 3.4 ounces/ 100 ml then why does TSA continue to provide false information by signage and audio messages in airports across the country.

Is TSA so use to being dishonest with the public that this just business as usual?

Submitted by Lynn on

@avxo:

For crying out loud Lynn, we were hoping for a rational answer; not the sort of ridiculous scenarios you just concocted. I don't mean ridiculous in the sense that they would never happen; rare as those instances might be, all clearly involve contraband; and in that sense your answer is is ridiculous because you are basically stating "contraband isn't allowed." Well, gee, thanks.

We are asking about legitimate, non contraband items, that some TSA personnel insist on not letting through. Things like car keys that fold into the fob and spring open. Things like nail clippers. Things like additional laptop batteries.

All of the items I mentioned in my answer have actually happened - more than once. And while we might not see them daily, we do see them pretty often, so that's why I mentioned it.

But to your point about items are permitted but have issues at the checkpoint, if you know something is allowed, like nailclippers, and you're told it's prohibited, you can ask the officer about it and if you need additional assistance, then ask for a manager. The officers are doing their best to keep threats off of planes - and nobody's perfect. New things pop up every day and can cause confusion, and either at the airport or on the blog, we can check out items that have issues and get the answers.

Lynn, TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

RB said:
If the limit is truly 3.4 ounces/ 100 ml then why does TSA continue to provide false information by signage and audio messages in airports across the country.

RB as a blogger that has shown a major concern over the amount of money spent by the TSA I am happy that you are telling them to tear up all the sinage and recorded messages and spend more tax payer money on new signs and messages. It appears that the addition of .4oz actually allows for more items to be allowed through screening. Most perfumes are sold in 100ml containers so the TSA is allowing passengers to keep these items. So it appears that the TSA became proactive and modified their policy to help us to keep some of our items. I for one am happy that they did this as it saved me from losing my wifes expensive perfume and helping make a passenger happy.

Submitted by Lynn on

@ Bubba:

And also, if the baggie is to limit the total amount, why not just limit the total amount? Why determine that it must be a zip lock baggie? Why is a flip-top or any other format not OK? Are you aware that zip locks are very hard to find abroad and most certainly are not sold in quart sizes (or liters, for that matter)?

Where bags aren't sold by volume (quart, gallon)like in the U.S., the dimensions of the bag are about 20x20cm, which comes out to about 8x8 inches. The EU and many other countries around the world also have the liquids rules which require liquids to be in the sealed zip-top bag - this is not just a U.S. rule.

The size of the baggie limits the amount of liquids that come onto the plane for each passenger - both in terms of the container size (3.4 ounce/100ml)and the total volume in the bag. Having it be zip-top and requiring it to be sealed limits the amount of liquid that's in it.

Thanks,

Lynn, TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

Lynn, you are saying that:

-gun parts in a laptop
-playing cards with bullets inside
-teddy bears with pocket knives
-infant carrier with knives

"have actually happened - more than once."

and...

"we do see them pretty often"

Can you please substantiate either or both of those claims? TIA

Submitted by RB on

But to your point about items are permitted but have issues at the checkpoint, if you know something is allowed, like nailclippers, and you're told it's prohibited, you can ask the officer about it and if you need additional assistance, then ask for a manager. The officers are doing their best to keep threats off of planes - and nobody's perfect. New things pop up every day and can cause confusion, and either at the airport or on the blog, we can check out items that have issues and get the answers.

Lynn, TSA Blog Team

July 30, 2010 11:27 AM

........
What about "Clear Care" brand contact lens cleaner?

Submitted by Mike E on

Why can I bring a pair of 12" metal spikes on a plane, but I can't bring a 1" tiny blade on my keychain?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bubba,

Are you aware that zip locks are very hard to find abroad and most certainly are not sold in quart sizes (or liters, for that matter)?

Not true I purchase them all the time for my household. Please search at walmart, mars, giant and others and maybe you'll find them like I do.

Your Welcome

Submitted by Anonymous on

"f you know something is allowed, like nailclippers, and you're told it's prohibited, you can ask the officer about it and if you need additional assistance, then ask for a manager. The officers are doing their best to keep threats off of planes - and nobody's perfect."

Why should we have to ask for assistance? And why can't your incompetent screeners just follow the rules you've invented? Why can't you train your people properly, Lynn/Curtis/Bob?

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

Anonymous writes: Whatever you are askin about can go in your checked baggage. A very simple solution, but you will have to wait once you get off the plane for you baggage, a terrible ordeal.

Sorry, Anonymous, but that doesn't always work. The airlines don't guarantee that your checked bags will reach your destination with you, and specifically tell you not to put certain things (e.g. valuables, medications) in your checked bags precisely for that reason. While the airline might offer you some money as compensation a few months later, that's little comfort to you when you're missing your items right then.

Another anonymous writes:
RB as a blogger that has shown a major concern over the amount of money spent by the TSA I am happy that you are telling them to tear up all the sinage and recorded messages and spend more tax payer money on new signs and messages.

It wouldn't be that hard to simply make sure that all new signs printed have the true limits listed. Over time, as the old signs wear out or get damaged, they'd be replaced with the more accurate signs. But, for some reason, TSA hasn't taken that route.

Submitted by Earl Pitts on

@Anon: "RB as a blogger that has shown a major concern over the amount of money spent by the TSA I am happy that you are telling them to tear up all the sinage and recorded messages and spend more tax payer money on new signs and messages. It appears that the addition of .4oz actually allows for more items to be allowed through screening. Most perfumes are sold in 100ml containers so the TSA is allowing passengers to keep these items. So it appears that the TSA became proactive and modified their policy to help us to keep some of our items. I for one am happy that they did this as it saved me from losing my wifes expensive perfume and helping make a passenger happy."

Even if they're not replacing old signs, there's no reason to deploy incorrect new signs.

Earl

Submitted by Earl Pitts on

Anon, do you not know what abroad means? Generally referring to out of the country. What may be available easily here in the US may or may not be available in a given country, especially where places like Walmart don't exist (and some of those places don't exist outside of Maryland. ;)

And Lynn, I think it's pretty bad to use the baggie excuse for other countries when many either do it for US bound flights are or do it as a "me too" like TSA. That's like the kid pointing to the other kid saying that they're doing it too to justify your actions when TSA is the kid that started it. Makes no sense.

Earl

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