United Enforces Nonexistent Comic Book Ban in San Diego
Passengers departing from San Diego (SAN) this past weekend — many of them fresh off Comic-Con International: San Diego — were devastated to learn that their comic books had been placed on United's checked bag no-fly list at the request of the TSA. The only problem? The TSA says that there was no ban.
The incident first came to light on Sunday morning when a perplexed flyer tweeted a friendly PSA to raise awareness about the ban. According to the tweet, United was instructing Comic-Con attendees to remove all comic books from their checked bags. In response, United tweeted back, stating that the book ban had been the TSA's doing. That didn't sit well with the agency.
United appears to be the only airline to have made the mistake and its not entirely clear why it happened at all. The TSA does not ban books in checked bags, TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers told tech site Ars Technica. “I can say that TSA has advised in the past that if people bring several of the same type of item, it can alarm the checked baggage screening, but there is no prohibition on bringing things that are not a security threat. In this case, comic books are not a security threat and we encourage travelers to bring them if they so choose.”
This isn't the first time the agency has come under fire for paper-related travel policies — though it may be the first time its been wrongfully accused of doing so by an authority as presumably aware as an airline. This past May, the TSA made headlines when it required a Kansas City passenger to remove all paper products from their carry-on bag for separate screening. The TSA now says that policy, which was part of a security pilot program, has since been scrapped.
United spokesman Jonathan Guerin told TPG that the incident was a result of a misunderstanding between the airline and the agency. "While TSA is recommending that customers keep their comic books in their carry-on bags, there are no restrictions on packing them in checked luggage," he said. "We misunderstood TSA’s instructions and regret any inconvenience this may have caused our customers."
H/T: Ars Technica