WASHINGTON - For many, spring break is a time when thousands of students leave daily responsibilities behind, hopping on flights bound for sun or snow. But all travelers must remember that airline security is a serious matter that requires following a few easy guidelines.
"We anticipate this spring travel season will be very busy," said Rear Adm. David M. Stone, Acting Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration. "We are prepared to accommodate travelers nationwide. In turn, we ask travelers to be prepared to fly."
With nearly two million passengers to be screened each day during spring break, travelers are urged to check out TSA's helpful travel tips on our website at www.tsa.gov.
It's important to remember to:
Pack smart. For purposes of security screening, your trip begins before you ever leave the house. Mindlessly cramming items into a suitcase is a recipe for problems. Items that could be used as weapons -- ranging from pointed scissors to razor blades and baseball bats -- are not allowed on you or in your carry-on luggage. Check the Web site for a list of prohibited items.
And take note that if you attempt to bring a weapon through screening you may be subject to a fine. Saying it was unintentional is no excuse.
To lock...or not. In some cases screeners will have to open your baggage as part of the screening process. If your bag is unlocked TSA will simply open and screen the contents. However, if you decide to lock your checked bag and TSA cannot open it through other means, then the locks may have to be broken. TSA is not liable for damage caused to locked bags that must be opened for security purposes.
TSA suggests that you help prevent the need to break your locks by using a TSA-recognized locking mechanism. These "special" locks can be opened by TSA using tools provided to us by participating industry members and can be purchased at multiple retail outlets.
Arrive on time. Recommended arrival times, typically 60 to 90 minutes before departure, vary by airline and day of travel, so check with your carrier. Many airports require you to obtain a boarding pass before you can enter the security checkpoint. You may obtain a boarding pass at the airline counter or kiosk. Many carriers also provide boarding passes over the Internet. However you obtain it, you will need a boarding pass and valid government photo ID to enter the checkpoint. Remember to give yourself adequate time to check your baggage and move through the checkpoint
Dress the part. Metal in your clothing or in your shoes may set off the walk-through metal detector. Avoid wearing metal in or on your clothing. Pack coins, keys, jewelry, belt buckles and other metal items in your carry-on bag. Choose travel shoes that are metal-free. If you do not know if your shoes have metal shanks, you may want to remove them before passing through the detector. Screeners may require the removal of shoes with thick soles. These shoes will typically be X-rayed or screened for explosive traces.
You may carry-on your laptop, but it must be removed from its case to pass through screening. We recommend you tape your name and contact information on your laptop. Laptops often are left behind at screening checkpoints. Providing your name allows screeners to page you in the airport and return your property before you depart. Electronic equipment such as portable stereos or games can be carried on but may be subjected to enhanced screening. Again, taping your name and contact information on expensive electronics will help screeners contact you if property is left behind.
In addition to one carry-on and one personal item, you may include a musical instrument or a photographic bag if it contains only photographic equipment. But check your air carrier's policies to assure they will accommodate these extra items once you arrive at the gate. Most airline policies are posted on their Web sites.
No film, exposed or unexposed, should go in your checked bags. Undeveloped film should go in your carry-on, and film faster than 800-speed can be handed to a screener for physical inspection so it can avoid being X-rayed. You may also want to ask for a hand inspection if you know your undeveloped film might be X-rayed more than five times before it is developed.
Mace can only go in your checked bags. Forgetting you have a knife, gun or even mace on a key chain can put a real damper on your vacation. Criminal and civil penalties are possible, so be careful.
Think. Belligerent behavior, inappropriate jokes and threats are taken very seriously. Flights have been turned around so unruly passengers could be removed. In January, a 21-year-old woman was jailed for joking about bombs in her luggage. "This is a warning for everybody who wants to play stupid jokes not to do that," she told reporters after being released on bond. "I wasn't thinking. That was my problem."
Experience has shown that security screening can go smoothly even during busy travel periods.
"Actually, we anticipate few problems with spring breakers," said Dale Karlen, Federal Security Director at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. "If travelers leave sufficient time, are prepared for screening and realize that their vacation starts after they land at their destination and ends when they get to the checkpoint for their flight home, things work out quite well.
"Remember, too, that all travelers have a responsibility to be observant, to notice those things that just don't seem right," Karlen added. "If you observe activity that you think is suspicious, report it to a TSA or airline employee, a flight crewmember or the police. We all share responsibility to keep our skies safe."
To report a problem or to make general comments, travelers can call TSA's Contact Center via e-mail at TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov.