New TSA Screening Procedures Coming That Require Passengers To Remove More Items (Including Paper) From Their Bags

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First it was a rumor but now it has been confirmed by the TSA that it is in the first stages to roll out new procedures requiring passengers to remove even more items from their bags during screening including paper.

Current screening procedures have been in place for a while and obviously TSA saw the need to evolve the process which will affect travelers in the regular line while PreCheck and CLEAR are exempt.

Traveling in the U.S. won’t be getting more comfortable anytime soon with a bunch of new regulations and security measures being rolled out that includes ID checks, baggage searches, limitations of what can remain in the bag during screening and who knows what else.

The Wall Street Journal (access here) had a detailed article yesterday where they sat down with a DHS representative who outlined new procedures and the reasons for them.

Changes are coming to airport security checkpoints: TSA wants you to declutter your bags.

New procedures, such as requiring all food or all electronics larger than cellphones be placed in bins separately, are still being tested. Changes haven’t yet been finalized, but senior Transportation Security Administration officials agreed to discuss them publicly for the first time. Decisions will be made in a few weeks, with new rules implemented after the summer travel rush, once screeners are trained and announcements made.

Many have been confused by unusual procedures. In Kansas City, Mo., in early May, screeners forced passengers to remove all paper from bags, down to notepads. That test didn’t go well and was halted after a few days, TSA says.

“It has to be efficient and it has to be effective,” says Darby LaJoye, assistant administrator for security operations. “We are far enough along that I am very optimistic that what we are piloting is working.”

Airline baggage fees prompt travelers to load up carry-on cases, which has created problems at X-ray machines. Pictures of the insides of overstuffed bags take more time to read. Screeners must be able to identify each item in the bag—anything that can’t be cleared as safe has to get manually checked, officials say.

TSA says new procedures likely will be confined to standard screening lines and not PreCheck lanes, where trusted travelers get expedited screening and get to leave more items in bags.

While TSA says this won’t create longer lineups it’s relatively safe to assume that it will most definetely take much longer to deal with confused and angry passengers, both of which will slow down the screening process considerably. There will still be items in some bags that require a manual check so it’s not like introducing new rules will eliminate that.

TSA’s X-ray displays color items in bags by their density—most stuff is orange, blue and turquoise more dense, metal shows up as black.

The cluttered bag appears on the screen looking like a kindergarten art project gone haywire. With the uncluttered bag, shapes are easy to identify. Even if the cluttered bag doesn’t get pulled out for manual checking, it takes the screener more time to study the image.

“There’s not any one thing in that bag that says red flag. But there’s so much going on it takes time to figure out what it is,” the explosives specialist says.

TSA will also start to verify Identification Documents electronically, replacing the manual process that is in place right now.

Another change starting to roll out: TSA will begin using machines to verify ID instead of officers manually studying passports and driver’s licenses. The ID verification machine testing will start at Washington Dulles Airport later this month, then spread to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Austin, Texas and Washington Reagan Airport. Full rollout should take about two years.

The machine checks for fake IDs and matches up names with passenger lists—no boarding pass will be needed at the TSA checkpoints when the machine is in use. Officers can still clear someone manually if a false alarm is triggered.

TSA tested the technology with a shipment of fake IDs out of China that was intercepted by customs officials.

This will be another bottleneck for passengers to pass through because while it’s relatively straightforward and easy for people who know what to do there will be those who are going to have tremendous issues in using such machines. Hopefully TSA will still have staff available next to the machine to put the ID/passport into the machine manually. Language barriers will also add to the confusion and if the scanner at various border crossings is anything to go by then there will be instances where you have to scan many times until the machine detects the data properly. Just lovely!

Conclusion

With the airlines siphoning money off travelers with introducing fees every left and right, especially for checking bags, it comes at no surprise that people are trying to drag half of their household onto the plane. Ironically this affects mostly infrequent travelers without elite status in Economy Class (anybody else would have a complimentary checked bag) who will be unfamiliar with the new procedures and hence slow down the line.

The best choice for eligible travelers is to take these new measures as a reason to sign up for TSA PreCheck or CLEAR Trusted Traveler Programs which will allow for faster security screening but comes with an annual fee (often waived by premium credit cards such as U.S. based Amex Platinum). International travelers are still able to benefit from TSA PreCheck if they sign up for Global Entry and insert their Trusted Traveler ID into their reservation and online profile.

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