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Thursday, December 23, 2010
Holiday Travel Banner

Thanksgiving was only a few weeks ago, but If you’re getting ready to travel for the holidays, you’re probably coming here looking for some tips. So this post is basically the Thanksgiving travel post minus all the corny pilgrim and turkey jokes. If you need to brush up on airport security, you’re in the right place!

The MyTSA App: Our new MyTSA App (Available as an iPhone App or Mobile Web App) amongst other great features has a “Can I Bring My...” tool. You can type in the name of the item you’re curious about and it will tell you if the item is permitted or not. If it’s not included in the list, you have the option of submitting it to us for addition. We even added “tatting shuttle.” Yep, we had to Google it too, and they are permitted.

Wait Times: A crowd sourcing wait time feature is available in our MyTSA application. Check the app to see what wait times have been posted at your departing airport, and be sure to post your wait time to help others. The more people who use this, the better, so spread the word!

Pat-downs: A very small percentage of passengers will need to receive a pat-down. To reduce the need for a pat-down, the most important thing you can do is take everything out of your pockets before you go through screening. You can put these items in your carry-on bag. Don't wear clothes with a high metal content, and put heavy jewelry on after you go through security. You will also receive a pat-down if you choose to opt out of our Advanced Imaging Technology. (Body Scanners) Check out this post to read some myths and facts about the pat-down. TSA does not squeeze, twist, or grab any body parts during a pat-down and other than inspecting the waistband and collar, our officers are not reaching inside clothing or touching any skin.

The 4-1-1 on 3-1-1 (Liquids, Gels & Aerosols): Let me start by saying this. If you’re checking a bag, make it easy on yourself and just put your liquids in your checked luggage. That way, you don’t have to worry about 3-1-1. I know that suggestion doesn’t work for everybody. Some liquids are essential and some of you understandably would not like to pay to check your luggage. If you’d rather take liquids in your carry-on, please continue reading...

3-1-1 is the name for our liquid policy. You can read here for more details, but here is the gist of 3-1-1... Each passenger is allowed to take one clear quart-sized sealable bag and fill it with as many liquids in 3.4 oz or less sized containers that will fit, while still being able to seal the bag. Basically, don’t stuff it to the point where it won’t close.

Make sure you take the bag out of your carry-on prior to sending it through the X-ray, or our officers may have to search your bag.

Annoying Family Members: We’ve had many requests, but we cannot add annoying family members to the No Fly List.

If you have liquids, aerosols, or gels that are used for medical purposes, they do not need to adhere to our 3-1-1 policies and do not have to be placed in a bag. You may be asked to go through a TSA Family Lane (see below) so we can expedite the screening process. The liquids, gels and aerosols will need to be removed from your bags.

Answers to common questions: Stick deodorant is not limited to 3.4 oz or less, but gel or spray deodorant is. Also, any liquid makeup such as eyeliner should be placed in the baggie. That goes for perfume as well. Powder makeup is fine.

Family Lanes: Frequent flyers hate it when they’re in line behind a family, and guess what... families hate it when the frequent flyer is behind them tapping their foot and sighing. That’s why we created Family Lanes. They’re designed to let families take their time and ask questions without feeling rushed by the experienced frequent flyers who can zip through a checkpoint in no time. Also, as stated earlier, anybody carrying medically necessary liquids, aerosols and gels in excess of 3.4 oz may be directed to a Family Lane.

Travel Advice for Frosty the Snowman: You are not frozen solid and are larger than 3.4 ounces, so you may not board the plane.

Foods: Pies are permitted, but they are subject to additional screening if our officers see any anomalies. (Additional screening of pies does not include our officers tasting the pie, no matter what they tell you...) Cakes, (to include yummy fruitcakes that nobody else seems to enjoy but me) bread, donuts, turkeys, etc. are all permitted. If it’s a live turkey, you might want to have a word with the airline. Here is a list of items that should be placed in your checked bags or shipped: cranberry sauce, creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.), gift baskets with food items (salsa, jams and salad dressings), gravy (mmm gravy), jams, jellies, maple syrup, oils and vinegars, sauces, soups, wine, liquor and beer.

Christmas Sweaters: While some Christmas sweaters< can have a nauseating effect on passengers, they are currently permitted through TSA checkpoints.

Gifts: Wrapped gifts may need to be unwrapped. If there’s something in the gift that needs to be inspected, we have to open it. Our officers try their best not to mangle the gift wrap, but it’s not a guarantee and it also slows down the line for everybody else when we have to do this. It is suggested that you wrap the presents when you arrive at your destination. You also have the option of shipping the items as well.

Snow Globes: We are not in cahoots with the Heat Miser, but snow globes are not permitted in your carry-on luggage. They are sealed containers full of liquid that would have to be opened and destroyed to test. We’re not in the business of busting snow globes, so we suggest you place them in your checked baggage or mail them ahead of time.

Mistletoe: Although the name may sound a bit nefarious, mistletoe (not missile-toe) is permitted. Just don’t expect the person sitting in the middle seat to kiss you.

ID & Boarding Pass Checking & Secure Flight: As you approach a TSA checkpoint, you will see an officer checking IDs and boarding passes. Please have your acceptable ID and boarding pass out and ready to present to our officer. If your ID is in a plastic sheath or other type of holder, it will need to be removed so our officers can properly inspect them. By having your ID and boarding pass out and ready, you’ll help move the line along faster. The several seconds it takes to get your ID and boarding pass out might not seem like much time, but it really adds up when you’ve got people in line behind you.

Also, folks have had questions about the Secure Flight program and whether the name on your ticket has to match the name on your ID. The Secure Flight watch-list matching process occurs before a passenger even gets to the airport so if you get a boarding pass, the Secure Flight watch-list matching process is done. In other words, you are clear once you get that pass.

If you have lost or forgotten your ID, you will still be permitted to fly as long as you help us verify you are who you say you are by answering a few questions for us.

Fruitcakes: Contrary to popular belief, fruitcake is a delicious edible and festive cake, not a WMD.

Inconsistencies: You may notice your screening experience at one airport doesn’t match the experience of another airport. We realize this happens, and some of it is intentional. While it can be a little confusing for our passengers, it also makes things unpredictable for those who might wish to do us harm. Our officers also can use their discretion in different scenarios that allows them to use common sense and not abide by a checklist mentality that can be studied and defeated by those who wish to do us harm.

Shoes on Belt: We recommend you place your shoes on the X-ray belt as opposed to placing them in a bin. Why? It keeps the bins from getting too cluttered and allows our officers to get a better look at items to ensure prohibited items do not get on the plane. It also speeds things up when they get a better view and don't have to stop the X-ray belt for searches.

Print out this handy dandy checklist so you don’t forget anything and don’t forget to check out for a wealth of information on traveling through TSA checkpoints.

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team


Submitted by Gunner on

>>It keeps the bins from getting too cluttered and allows our officers to get a better look at items to ensure prohibited items do not get on the plane.<<

So explain this in the context that I put my shoes in an empty bin with no other content?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Not touching skin or reaching under clothing?

Well then my pat-down in Chicago was at least illegal and at-most inappropriate because the TSO did reach down my pants, did touch my skin and basically molested me.

When I asked why they were going down my pants and touching my skin, I was told that I should have gone through the scanner.

Hey folks: I'm female. I'm a cancer survivor. My oncologist told me not to subject myself to the scanners at the airport.

I do not need to be molested, embarrased, talked down to or treated poorly because I put my health concerns above your convenience.

Nice job, TSA. I'm doing everything within my legal powers as a citizen of the USA to make certain you people are replaced by a competent, well-trained and respectful organization.

Fill out a complaint? Name names? Trust the TSA will actually handle the situation?

Right. I fly out of Chicago all the time. The last thing I need is to be harassed or put in a glass box. I'd rather just work to make sure you people lose your jobs.

Submitted by Jerome Howard on

Bummer -- you wrote this so fast that you left a few minor details about the strip search machines --

1. About how one of them emits harmful radiation administered by someone who may have graduated high school;

2. About how the TSA has never allowed the active radiation emitter has never been tested in the operational environment;

3. About how the active radiation emitter concentrates most of its energy on the skin area, thereby creating an acutely high risk of developing skin cancers;

4. About how the machines can, in fact, store images in the field in the test, training, and maintenance modes;

5. About how the sheep lining up for these things are shown grossly inaccurate depictions of what the images actually look like, both in raw form and magnified;

6. About how passengers, especially women, are forced into private friskings so the rest of the flying public won't see what is happening to them;

Hope this helps you finish your post.

I'm "Happy to Help."

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

Bob, since you brought it up ... please post evidence that completely frozen liquids in excess of 3.4 ounces are permitted through the checkpoint.

And please don't point again to the Travelers With Disabilities page. That only covers passengers with a medical need for such items. Are passengers without a medical need allowed to bring solid ice through the checkpoint (a la Britney Spears)?

Submitted by Anonymous on

You really should be careful with how you write... making a joke about fruitcakes not being a WMD is a bad example to set, and just points out the hypocrisy that is the TSA. The TSA's reputation is becoming more and more of a joke. If someone made a joke about a security threat in line or in the presence of a TSA official, they'd be questioned, arrested, and fined, yet you make jokes about WMDs and security in general on here and on your twitter board. You can't expect anyone to respect TSA if you're a hypocrite.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Our officers also can use their discretion in different scenarios that allows them to use common sense"


It is very obvious that common sense is something that is not so common for your "officers."

Submitted by TSM, Been Here on

Any bets on whether the very first comment is something negative?
Just in case it's this one -
Happy Holidays Everyone!

Submitted by Anonymous on

If I use the "Can I Bring Tool" and print the results, will I be allowed to show it to the TSO who insists that my items are forbidden, or will it be slapped out of my hands before I'm locked in the "Penalty Box" until after my flight leaves?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Yeah, that's right- another Loooooooo000000000oong post, to shove all the topics that you're being proved wrong on way, way down the page, where hopefully no one will see them.

And,of course, no posts on:
An airline pilot is being disciplined by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for posting video on YouTube pointing out what he believes are serious flaws in airport security."

I was about to delete an offensive comment on this blog – one of the very few we get – and thought, hmm, I wonder where this guy is posting from? Because, really, it is quite unusual for us to get nasty comments. Lo and behold, the troll posted to our website from an IP address controlled by the federal government’s Department of Homeland Security!"

"McCoy has been a screener for the TSA for nearly nine years. ..."The work life here is horrible," said McCoy, ...Turnover is like a "revolving door" and health benefits are "atrocious," he said. Morale is low and so is the pay...Airline security blogger Steven Frischling has been posting anonymous complaints from officers on his blog,, including this one:
"It is not comfortable to come to work knowing full well that my hands will be feeling another man's private parts, their butt, their inner thigh."
Frischling said that screeners tell him they're "demeaned" by the pat-down procedure, which they describe as "ineffective.""

Bob, when EVEN YOUR OWN EMPLOYEES describe your procedures as "ineffective" and hate their jobs....

Submitted by TSO Tom on

Bob: Fruitcakes IS a WMD....weapon of weight destruction. Merry Christmas....Happy Chanuka....and Happy Holidays to all!

Submitted by Anonymous on


Great job love your sense of humor, good secuirty information, love the advice for all passengers , on behalf of the TSO's and passengers keep up the good work!
TSM from CA

Submitted by Anonymous on

"TSA does not squeeze, twist, or grab any body parts during a pat-down and other than inspecting the waistband and collar, our officers are not reaching inside clothing or touching any skin."

Did you go on a course to learn to lie or does it come naturally?

"We’ve had many requests, but we cannot add annoying family members to the No Fly List."

Can you add TSA to the no fly list?

Turning off your porn machines again these holidays?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"... our officers are not reaching inside clothing or touching any skin."

That wasn't my experience at Boston Logan on October 31, 2010. The TSA screener performing my pat-down lifted my shirt, pulled the waistband of my pants from my body, and then put her hands -- not a finger, not her finger tips, her hands -- into my pants and felt all around the waist. It was invasive and humiliating, and the official TSA blogger saying that sort of thing doesn't happen is just offensive.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So, was there a change, Bob? Does this truly mean TSA will stop touching my face, neck, and bare arms (especially if I am wearing a spaghetti strap tank top)? Or is this just a change for the holidays? Seriously, I'd like an official answer from YOU as is is you and your agency's actions and lies that has caused my cancellation of 3 out of 4 airline trips.

Submitted by Anonymous on

You KNOW you've made things ridiculous when passengers need to bring instructions with them to fly.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Oh, good. Another comical posting for us, just in time for the holidays. This is about what we expect from the TSA, Bob. You spent the whole year lying, spinning and spreading propaganda and now it's time for another big travel day. Wonder what kind of games the TSA will play this round? Turn of the AIT machines like at Thanksgiving, saying "look how smooth it all goes"? What a farce.

Maybe once you're done with the lame attempts at comedy here, you could address some more pressing issues, like:

* the airline pilot who is being harassed for showing weaknesses in the security at SFO. The feds confiscated his handgun, revoked his conceal carry permit (?), and searched his house. Wow, you guys sure are after the right people.

* you disinformation campaign. Your own TSA page on "Traveling with Children?" STILL (weeks after the AIT's were rolled out) says ZERO about them or the groping. So, parents who read this and get to the airport to be shocked by what is going on cannot opt out or they are threatened with $11,000 fines.

Merry Christmas, Bob. I hope you sleep well.

Submitted by Incompetent Hom... on

Good tips, and I apologize for going slightly off topic, but I've never gotten an answer to this question:

How can the TSA claim public support for its policies if it intentionally makes those policies "unpredictable" and encourages its officers to use discretion rather than a "checklist mentality"? Consent is only consent if it's informed.

Submitted by Anonymous on

And don't forget to opt out of your radiation exposure! And don't have a cardiac condition either, unless you want to be thrown onto the floor and dragged off.

Submitted by Phanatic on

How come the official story on what happens if you refuse screening changes? First we were told that you can opt out and choose not to fly instead of being screened. Then we were told that you can opt out and choose not to fly, but that you'll be subject to a $11,000 fine if you leave the checkpoint without permission. And now in this story:

a rape victim with a pacemaker gets *arrested* when she refuses to submit to a pat-down search after setting off the magnetometer.

How can you people live with yourselves?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I can't believe you though writing jokes about this stuff was a good idea.

What will you joke about next - auto accidents?

You have to know that many people find your procedures to be extremely objectionable. Why would you think this is funny?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I just wanted to say Merry Christmas! It's thanks to these policies that we are driving today.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Thank you for the list. I understand that there may be changes made from time to time and from airport to airport to enhance security.

The negative commentary on this practice only reminds me of President Bush's warning that: ""Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." The criticism of TSA is by people that are not with "us".

Submitted by Anonymous on

Now the airlines are maybe a tiny bit safer, but the determined terrorists will move on to "softer" targets, like Times Square, Xmas tree lighting ceremonies and cargo bombs.

Next attack - shopping centers, schools, cruise ships, sports events, subways, tunnels, buses, airport security lines to name but a few.

We cannot possibly catch every attempt by screening, but we can humiliate millions of people, violate their rights and their privacy, possibly cause cancers, and help bankrupt already hurting commercial aviation companies.

My family and I won't fly until this travesty is lifted.

Submitted by Incompetent Hom... on

"You are also reminded that any inappropriate comments or jokes concerning security may result in your arrest."

Submitted by Anonymous on

Can somebody call the supervisor to have a little talk with Bob? The things you TSA guys did are not funny at all.

And Bob, thanks to your words, it really sucks all the people's holiday spirits away, nice try.

Submitted by Jerome Howard on

Hey, Bob, it's Jerome Howard again. I'd like you to explain why you didn't see fit to publish my summary of facts about the whole-body-imaging devices that you must have overlooked in your post? I'll give you a chance to respond before I send a copy of my post to the DHS Inspector General Hotline.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said:
"Right. I fly out of Chicago all the time. The last thing I need is to be harassed or put in a glass box. I'd rather just work to make sure you people lose your jobs."

Good plan. Write your Representatives and demand that the TSA be brought under control. No use playin around with the non-high school graduates that might be manning the checkpoints.

Cut off the TSA where it matters: Have the House deny funding until it observes the Constitution.

First step: Insist that your Rep support an independent, third party to moderate this blog.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"You may have read about TSA implementing enhanced pat downs as part of our layered approach to security. Using the latest intelligence, TSA constantly updates our screening procedures to stay ahead of those who wish to do us harm and keep the skies safe for the flying public."

It seems comical that the TSA would cite "intelligence" when the TSOs don't even have to be high school graduates. Who exactly is the TSA protectng us against? A lactating mother? A rape survivor?

This is hilarious except for the whole denying Americans the rights that are provided by God.

"When developing our security procedures, we use input from across the agency, including our Offices of Intelligence, Privacy, and Civil Rights and Liberties. "

Input that, while valuable, is then ignored.

Amazing that a taxpayer supported blog would dare suggest these things when they are so demonstrably false.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Tomorrow, I get on a plane for the 5th time in the last 5 months. Not an enormous amount by road warrior standards, but enough to have developed a deep-seated loathing of the TSA.

And although I had a lovely Christmas, but I did not get the one thing I was truly hoping for: John Pistole's resignation.

The TSA remains a stain on the American law enforcement system, and I pray the courts eviscerate you for abuses like this

There is simply no need for this, and your tactics are designed specifically to intimidate the public into submission.

In 2011, I hope everyone in the TSA grows a conscience.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I think next time I fly if I have a complaint I will not only fill out the tsa forms.. I would also write my congressmen.

Its pretty obvious the TSA Is not really taking complaints seriously.
Its Also obvious that there seems to be several sets of rules and procedures. The Official tsa rule, The rules for "important" people, and what the TSO's are actually doing in the field. [possibly though no fault of their own]

It all stems from bad leadership and training.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Thank you for the list. I understand that there may be changes made from time to time and from airport to airport to enhance security. "

As in, it is frequently necessary to violate the rules so that they can be enforced?

Submitted by Anonymous on

This is an extraordinarily insensitive, crass and hypocritical post. Blogger Bob makes jokes about passengers carrying missiles and bombs onto planes. If the general public did this they would arrested and prevented from flying. Your comments were clearly meant in a light-hearted manner, but The TSA knows how sensitive many passengers are about enhanced security measures and the impact they now have on many people, so perhaps Blogger Bob you would like to comment on why you think it is appropriate to make highly inappropriate jokes on such a serious issue?
I would be very surprised if you bother to respond.

Submitted by Anonymous on

WMDs. Hmmm. Itsn't that what we went to Iraq for and there were none. You guy make me laugh. You don't get intel, the CIA and DIA do. Increased Chatter? Thats not intel at all and you know it. Kind of like the intel they had for Iraq. At least Bush has the decency to show us the cherry picked and false intel.

You are just trying to scare the public into accepting your scanners, patdowns, police "intel" centers and to send on our money on technology the lobbist push so your hand picked companies can make millions.

I feel sorry for all the employees that think they are protecting the country when, in fact, they are suppressing citizens rights.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Shoes on Belt:

Does this mean you're going to take down the signs that say to put them in the bins? Every time I go through security, it seems I guess wrong. If I put them on the belt, someone puts them in a bin. If I put it in a bin, someone puts them on the belt. While I know I ask the impossible, a little consistency would be nice.

Submitted by Kimm on

As someone who has been pulled out only because I have a brace and no other reason, I did not find this humerous either.

I miss flying, but I guess I'll miss more family holidays untill TSA starts treating us all like human beings again instead of criminals.

Submitted by Anonymous on

When are you going to quit wasting our tax dollars with these silly posts (that address the same information time and time again) and start to address real concerns for those of us who have to travel every week?

1. How are TSA officers held accountable after a complaint is filed? What's the process? Tell us, the taxpayers, who pay your salaries.
2. Who is responsible for watching taxpayer private property when the taxpayer is undergoing a pat down?
3. Where's the independent studies on the body scanning machines? What are the long term health issues?

While on vacation this holiday I heard at least 4 to 5 TSA jokes. Until you start to address real concerns from real taxpayers, your organization will continue to suffer a loss of credibility. I am hoping someone at the TSA stops the false media campaign in 2011 and starts to address real issues.

Submitted by Anonymous on

If the RapidScan Make-Cherthoff-Richer scanners are not meant to be mandatory, somebody better tell San Diego International Airport Terminal #1, December 23, roughly 1PM TSA crew that. They were forcing everyone to go through the nude-o-scope, including children under the age of 12, with the WTMD completely roped off.

TSA new mission: Irradiating TSO's Nationwide.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"other than inspecting the waistband and collar, our officers are not reaching inside clothing or touching any skin."

But they are reaching inside clothing and touching skin when "inspecting waistbands", right?

We are not stupid. This is disgusting.

Submitted by SSSS For Some Reason on

Thank you for the attempted Humor Blogger Bob.

It is, however, extremely out of place and in poor taste in this particular setting.

I appreciate your attempts to humanize the T.S.A., to show your not just a machine that is interceding between us and our travel plans. But, if *we* were to attempt this kind of humor while in the TSA Zone at the airport we could be subjected to any manner of ill treatment up to and including being jailed.

Treat us with some respect and you may get some in return.

Submitted by Anonymous on

How should I protect my 4th amen dmant rights @ the point of offense?
If I were a founding father I would be rebelious against the controlong powers.

Submitted by Anonymous on

This Christmas I spent hundreds of extra dollars to fly through airports that do not yet have the unconstitutional screening methods. Unfortunately plane delays caused me to miss my connecting flight and I had to spend the night in a hotel. I was worried that I would be stranded in the city, as I would not be subjected to the AIT machines or to "pat downs" and may not be let back into the airport.

Luckily, the next morning (Christmas Eve) all of the AIT machines were turned off and the old screening measures were in place.

If the TSA can turn the machines off during the busiest travel times of the year, why can't they keep them off?

After all, this country was founded upon freedom, and the fact that there are God given rights that need to be protected. The TSA needs to honor those freedoms for which many have fought and died. If you can't do that, then go find a country that doesn't have those rights, you'll be happier there.

There are plenty to chose from.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I personally smiled at the humerous context of some of your recent blog post.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So, Bob, perhaps you can explain something for us:

"Snow Globes: We are not in cahoots with the Heat Miser, but snow globes are not permitted in your carry-on luggage. They are sealed containers full of liquid that would have to be opened and destroyed to test. We’re not in the business of busting snow globes, so we suggest you place them in your checked baggage or mail them ahead of time."

If they are sealed and you would have to break them to test them, exactly how did terrorists get liquid explosives inside?

Submitted by Anonymous on

my comment about the sexual harassment during the patdown by TSA agents at SJC on 12/26 has not appeared although i posted it yesterday. Might i ask the moderator of this blog why it hasn't been posted?

Submitted by Anonymous on

This post is idiotic.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why is TSA going after the pilot that revealed the inexcusable difference in the way various employees are screened? BTW its not a giant secret it is common knowledge. How embarrassing for your agency. I will be writing my congressmen with the suggestion that TSA be stood down until there can be an agency wide review of practices and malpractices. You're not making us safer and your agency should be dismantled.

Submitted by Anonymous on


I received a patdown Christmas morning. I specifically asked a three-stripe supervisor if they would be touching my testicles. Direct response was "no he will not".

Well, guess what. The TSO doing the patdown did in fact touch my testicles.

Not only are you people disgusting, you are liars as well. I hope someone files a class action against the TSA as I will be glad to join.

Submitted by John At BWI Parking on

I am very glad that you provided the family lane. I mean, it's just annoying when a member of 10 family with noisy kids are in front of you.

I just hope there are also cabins for kids, to avoid destruction whenever they cry out loud (well,if the travel is an hour or two, it would be okay).

Submitted by Karl on

Are Nike+ sensors in shoes permitted? They're not dangerous in any way but they might confuse TSOs who aren't aware that these sensors exist.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Now that peer-reviewed evidence has come out that the porno scanners are junk, can you PLEASE stop irradiating people?

The scanners do not work. Yet the TSA, in their most intelligent response in a while, has said "NUH UHH!!!"

Why expose men, women, and children to dangerous radiation when there is absolutely no benefit?