3 ways the TSA experience will be different next time you fly

May 21, 2020

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Coronavirus is changing just about every aspect of the air travel experience.

Airlines are beefing up their cleaning procedures, flight attendants are increasingly wearing masks and many airlines are changing their inflight food and beverage services.

But the changes aren’t just happening onboard. Airports and even the Transportation Security Administration also are altering the way things are done on the ground in an effort to prevent travelers from getting sick.

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Here are a few key changes the TSA is implementing so you know what to expect next time you have to go through airport security:

Scan your own boarding pass

If you’re a mobile boarding pass loyalist, this isn’t really a change. But, if you’re like TPG’s Alberto Riva and prefer the old-school hard copy, you’re going to have to get accustomed to scanning the barcode yourself.

After scanning, you’ll be required to hold the pass up so the TSA officer can visually inspect it.

Related: Delta will add flights to keep planes from filling up through July.

Not handing your ticket over means eliminates a touchpoint between flyers and agents, helping reduce the possibility of contagion, the TSA said in announcing the change on Thursday.

Separate your food

Food regularly sets off alarms at TSA checkpoints, the agency said. When it does, agents have to conduct secondary bag inspections.

To combat that issue, and remove another potential instance of physical contact, travelers will now be required to remove food from their luggage and put it through the scanner in a clear plastic bag.

Related: United’s latest onboard distancing policy won’t cost the airline a cent.

Separate scans for food make it less likely that TSA officers will need to conduct secondary bag screenings. The TSA has been asking travelers to do this at some airports at least since 2018, but now the agency appears to be rolling out the food policy more broadly. Either way, it does not apply to TSA PreCheck members.

Guide: Top credit cards for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.

Social distance and wear a mask

Travelers already likely have social distancing and mask usage top of mind these days, and that’s being address at TSA checkpoints, too.

While the TSA acknowledges that no two airports are exactly alike, the agency said most checkpoints now have markers in security lanes to encourage physical distancing. And all TSA agents are now required to wear masks and gloves.

Travelers are also encouraged to wear masks, though they may have to adjust the face covering as part of the screening process. Also keep in mind that many U.S. airports are introducing policies that require all visitors to wear masks on airport grounds.

Read more: Health screenings could be coming to U.S. airports.

When going through checkpoints, the TSA recommends that passengers minimize their bin use by placing items like wallets and belts inside carry-on bags for screening.

Featured photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images.


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