Changes at TSA: Travelers can wear face masks while waiting in line for security screening

Apr 21, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Major changes are coming to TSA — including face masks and lots of sanitizer.

It’s just one of the ways the novel coronavirus has changed life as we know it, with the world of commercial aviation among the most affected.

Related: TPG’s comprehensive guide to coronavirus-related news and information

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been well known for these longstanding security screening regulations, implemented in response to the 9/11 attacks: No liquids over 3.4 ounces in carry-ons, nothing obscuring your face when going through security and nobody being let through with expired identification.

Sign up for our daily newsletter for more travel-related news, tips and flight deals

Now, the new threat of COVID-19 is prompting some of those measures to be temporarily reversed.

Related: 7 ways coronavirus could forever change the way we travel


MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 21: Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents help travelers. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents help travelers through security screening in Miami. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The TSA says airline passengers can now wear cloth face coverings while waiting in line for security screening. Travelers must still briefly lower their masks in order for the TSA officer to verify their identity, but they can stay protected throughout the rest of the process.

The TSA’s coronavirus hub page states, “Travelers are reminded to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel and prevention guidance regarding COVID-19.”

Of course, a face mask won’t keep you completely protected from the novel coronavirus, especially if you’re wearing a fabric mask instead of a full-fledged medical mask. But according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), any type of covering over your nose and mouth serves as additional protection from virus-carrying droplets like those in a sneeze, helping to prevent the disease from spreading from you to others around you, and vice versa.

Related: Should you use your airline sleep mask as a makeshift face mask?

This isn’t the first move toward more customer-friendly policies in response to the coronavirus outbreak. In mid-March, the TSA announced that travelers would be allowed to carry on up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer, although TSA cautioned that larger bottles would be subject to separate verification and could result in a slight travel delay.

Travelers who cannot renew expiring ID right now are also able to use state driver’s licenses which expired after March 1, 2020, as acceptable identification at security checkpoints. “TSA will accept expired driver’s licenses a year after the expiration date, plus 60 days after the duration of the COVID-19 national emergency,” the agency stated in late March. Real ID compliance has also been pushed back from its original date in October 2020.

Related: Everything you need to know about Real ID

(Photo by Tetra Images/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tetra Images/Getty Images)

Of course all this comes at the time of a severe collapse in demand for air travel. The TSA reports security screenings are down as much as 96%. Earlier this month, TSA screened fewer than 100,000 passengers in a single day — its lowest number ever. One year earlier, on the same day, that figure was 2 million passengers.

It is likely to take years for airline traffic to return to pre-Covid-19 levels, with effects being felt throughout the industry. Airlines are offering lowered requirements for earning elite status, while change and cancellation fees are temporarily non-existent.

Related: TSA screenings had already fallen by 90% late last month

Featured photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy. 

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.