Issues Travel Tips
The head of the
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) wants air travelers to
become partners over the holiday season in ensuring security and
minimizing passenger wait-times at screening checkpoints.
Rear Adm. David M. Stone, the Assistant Secretary of Homeland
Security for TSA, said it is important that travelers be prepared
for checkpoints during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holidays when
enhanced screening and heavy air traffic will combine with the
time-consuming challenge of X-raying bulky winter clothing and
"Partnership is the key to success," said Admiral Stone. "We're
asking all travelers to take a few minutes to check the travel tips
on our Web site so prohibited items are left at home and everyone
is ready for screening. If people are prepared, it helps our
screeners focus on ensuring security and maintaining low passenger
TSA in September announced it was increasing the use of
explosives trace detectors, expanding the use of manual pat-down
searches, and referring more passengers for additional screening
based on visual observations by screeners, even if an alarm has not
gone off. As always, passengers have the right to a private
"A vigilant America may well have discouraged terrorist acts
tied to high-profile events like the recent political conventions
and the election," Admiral Stone said. "The holidays also are a
period when increased vigilance is especially appropriate."
Thanksgiving has the most concentrated travel of the year. To
ensure checkpoints are fully staffed, leave will be restricted for
TSA employees, managers will be working alongside screeners, and
checkpoints may open earlier or close later, depending on the
airport. Also, many TSA Headquarters employees and management will
be volunteering to work at airports in non-security roles, such as
handling baggage and helping passengers prepare for screening.
TSA's checkpoint protocols now require all passengers to remove
outer coats and jackets for X-ray before proceeding through the
metal detectors. That includes suit and sport coats, athletic
warm-up jackets and blazers. If a sports coat or blazer is being
worn as the outermost garment – not over a blouse or sweater,
for example – it does not have to come off.
Passengers who attempt to take firearms and ammunition through
the checkpoint in their carry-on luggage continue to be a problem.
Through October, more than 2,200 firearms had been intercepted
since TSA assumed responsibility for security at the nation's 450
airports in February 2002. Nationally in recent months, ammunition
has been intercepted more than 2,000 times a month. All firearms
and ammunition must be declared to airline ticket agents and
properly stored in checked baggage.
Air travelers can make a significant contribution to security by
checking out "Prepare for Takeoff" at the TSA's website. It's full
of advice for packing smart and not wearing jewelry, shoes or
clothing that may set off metal detector alarms, as well as lists
of Permitted and Prohibited Items.
When traveling with children, a discussion in advance of airport
security may be helpful. At the checkpoint, children will need to
temporarily part with such things as blankets and stuffed animals,
and older children need to know that any comment suggesting a
threat to an aircraft or its passengers is taken seriously by TSA
Other important TSA
travel tips include:
- As you wait in line at the security checkpoint, place all metal
items in a carry-on bag and take laptops and video cameras out of
- Travel with unwrapped gifts. If a wrapped gift sets off an
alarm, TSA screeners will need to unwrap the gift to resolve the
- To minimize the risk of damage or loss, don't pack fragile or
valuable items in checked baggage. Take them with you in carry-on
baggage, or ship them to your destination instead.
- Put undeveloped film in carry-on baggage because equipment used
to screen checked baggage will damage film. Also, high-speed and
specialty film should not be put through X-ray machines, so
passengers may ask screeners at the checkpoint to physically
- You are NOT REQUIRED to remove your shoes before you enter the
walk-through metal detector. However, TSA screeners encourage you
to remove them because many types of footwear -– including
boots, platform shoes, and footwear containing metal or having a
thick sole or heel –- will require additional screening even
if the metal detector DOES NOT alarm.
- Screeners request certain shoes that match a terrorist profile
to be removed for additional checks. This is one of the lessons of
the "Richard Reid" incident.
- Get to the airport in plenty of time.
- Remember to put identification tags in and on all baggage
- Everyone, even frequent fliers, should double check the
contents of their pockets and bags, particularly carry-on luggage,
to ensure no prohibited items were inadvertently packed.
- Passengers selected for additional screening have the right to
request it be done in a private location.
- Don't overpack bags. If screeners have to open them, closing
overstuffed bags can be difficult and may result in that checked
bag being delayed until a later flight.
If TSA screeners need to open a locked bag for inspection, they
may have to break the lock. There are now products on the market
that have uniform locking systems that enable screeners to open and
relock a bag. Passengers without such devices may still want to
consider leaving bags unlocked.