WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has seen travel volume increase this summer compared to last year and the agency is prepared to handle the increased volume while remaining committed to supporting a healthy and secure environment for airline passengers, TSA employees and airport personnel.
Knowing what to expect when you get to the security checkpoint is key to a smooth trip through the checkpoint.
Individuals who have not flown since before the pandemic or during the early days of the pandemic will see that the checkpoint experience will look different.
Nationwide TSA officers are screening between 1.8 and 2.1 million people daily, which is a large increase from last year, but still down significantly from 2019, when closer to 2.5 million people were screened daily during the summer. At Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, TSA is currently screening about half of the volume screened pre-pandemic, however checkpoint volume continues to pick up.
TSA has observed that there are notably fewer business travelers at the same time that there is an increase in the number of vacationers. This is most notable on Sundays, which now tends to be the busiest travel day of the week.
“Travelers who are headed out on a vacation typically are not as familiar with security checkpoint protocols, especially when it comes to knowing what is permitted to be carried through a security checkpoint,” said Karen Keys-Turner, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “We strongly recommend that travelers arrive at the terminal well before their scheduled flight. Here at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International, we recommend that travelers arrive well in advance of their scheduled flights. It’s also important to come prepared for security screening. That means knowing what should and should not be packed in a carry-on bag or checked bag. The TSA web site has a lot of helpful information on preparing for a flight.”
TSA offers several ways for travelers to find out if an item is permitted in a carry-on bag, checked bag, either or neither. The TSA web site has a feature on the homepage called “What can I bring?” Type in the name of the item and it will let you know if it should be packed in a checked bag or carry-on bag. The same handy feature is available on the free downloadable MyTSA app. The MyTSA app gives users 24/7 access to the most frequently requested airport security information on any mobile device, including a searchable database that will let you know whether an item can be packed in a carry-on bag, checked bag, either or neither. The app also identifies delay information and current weather conditions at your favorite airports nationwide.
TSA is also active on social media. Travelers can send a question via Twitter to @AskTSA or via Facebook Messenger for live assistance in answering your questions from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET weekdays; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays.
The most common item that travelers bring to the checkpoint that is not permitted through the screening process are liquids, gels and aerosols that are larger than the acceptable limit. Each passenger may carry liquids, gels and aerosols that are 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or smaller through a checkpoint as long as those items fit into a one quart-sized, resealable bag. This is known as the 3-1-1 bag. Common travel items that must comply with the liquids rule include toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, sun block, mouthwash and lotions. Containers of liquids, gels and aerosols that are larger than 3.4 ounces (100 ml), regardless of the size container can be transported in checked baggage.
The exception to the 3-1-1 rule is that due to the pandemic, TSA is now allowing travelers to bring one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags until further notice. Passengers can expect that these containers larger than the standard allowance of 3.4 ounces of liquids permitted through a checkpoint will need to be screened separately, which will add some time to their checkpoint experience.
“Individuals who have not traveled recently will notice some changes in the checkpoint screening process that are our new normal,” Keys-Turner said. “When approaching the travel document checking podium, passengers will see TSA officers wearing masks and gloves. Most will be positioned behind acrylic barriers to reduce cross contamination with passengers. Our TSA officers will change their gloves between each pat down and they will use a fresh swab if they need to swab your hands or your carry-on items for any traces of explosives.”
Everyone in the airport is required to continue to wear a mask as prescribed by the federal mask mandate when they are in airports, bus and rail stations, as well as while on passenger aircraft, public transportation, passenger railroads, and over-the-road buses operating on scheduled fixed-routes. This means that all travelers must be wearing a mask at TSA airport screening checkpoints and throughout the airport and during their flights. If a traveler does not have a mask, a TSA officer will offer a mask to that individual at the checkpoint.
When travelers approach the travel document checking podium, they will be asked to scan their own boarding pass—electronic or paper—to reduce a touchpoint. They also will be asked to remove their masks for a few seconds so that the officer can match the individual’s face to the photo on their ID.
As travelers place their items into bins along the conveyor belt, they will continue to see TSA officers in masks, gloves and face shields standing behind an acrylic barrier offering guidance and answering questions.
TSA employees will be conducting routine cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces and security screening equipment at the checkpoints.
To reduce touchpoints, it is recommended that travelers place items from their pockets such as wallets, keys, lip balm, tissues and cell phones into their carry-on bags to be screened instead of putting items from their pockets directly into bins. This minimizes the placing of personal items in a bin that you might hold to your face such as lip balm, tissues and cell phones. It also reduces the chance that travelers will leave something behind in a bin.
Individuals who are planning to travel this summer should consider enrolling in TSA PreCheck®. The popular expedited screening program allows travelers to leave on their shoes, jackets, belts and enables them to keep their electronics and 3-1-1 bags in their carry-on bags.
TSA PreCheck membership is more valuable now than ever before because it reduces touchpoints during the pandemic and puts travelers in security lines that have fewer travelers and move quicker, which encourages social distancing.