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

April 21, 2020
4 min read
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Changes at TSA: Travelers can wear face masks while waiting in line for security screening
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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.

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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."

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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 image by (Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy)

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Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023