New Air Travel Rules You Need to Know About
If it seems like airport security lines are longer and moving more slowly, you’re not imagining it: New air travel rules are in place. Here’s what you need to know.
More new rules? Why now?
A shoe bomber. Liquid explosives. An underwear bomber. A plot to detonate explosive cargo. These are just four of the threats the American aviation industry has thwarted since September 11, 2001, according to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly. But for every threat, the DHS comes up with new rules to keep us safe, including these which began rolling out in 2017 and are now in full effect at all U.S. airports, according to this press release from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Patience and preparedness required
“Federal grant money is allowing many airports to hire more screeners and purchase enhanced equipment,” legal expert Randolph Rice tells Reader’s Digest. As a result, new TSA employees are going to be using new and more sensitive screening tools, leading to longer lines and longer waits for passengers. “This may require more patience,” advises Rice, and according to the TSA, it also requires preparation. “Passenger preparedness can have a significant impact on wait times at security checkpoints nationwide,” the TSA stated in this recent press release, and that means being aware of the following.
If you haven’t noticed this already, TSA officers are paying attention not only to what you packed in your carry-on, but how you packed it. If your bag is overstuffed such that the X-ray machine can’t get a clear and unobstructed view of what’s in it, you may be asked to unpack and place your items in a bin in order to go through the X-ray machine. In case that’s not your idea of fun, the TSA advises travelers to organize their carry-on bags and keep them uncluttered. Here are 12 more ways to take the stress out of air travel.
Almost all your personal electronics are subject to screening
The TSA now requires travelers to place all personal electronics larger than a cell phone (such as tablets, e-readers, and handheld game consoles) into bins for X-ray screening in standard security lines, according to this TSA press release. These are the 13 things the airlines won’t tell you.
Prohibition on powders
What’s wrong with baby powder, you might wonder? Nothing—except it’s tough to tell just by looking that it’s actually baby powder and not something toxic or dangerous. As a result, the TSA now scrutinizes powdered substances in amounts greater than 350 milliliters (about the size of a soda can), and if an agent can’t be sure a powder is safe, the traveler may be asked to discard it. Your best bet is to avoid packing powder items in your carry-on; if you do, remove it from your bag and place it in a bin before being asked.
“Dense” foods subject to increased scrutiny
TSA officers may now ask travelers to take food out of their carry-on bags, particularly if the food is “dense” enough to interfere with the X-ray machine’s view of the other contents. What’s a dense food? Canned foods may be considered dense, according to the TSA, as well as baby formula, breast milk, and baby food. All of these items should be removed from your carry-on and placed into bins for easier screening, the TSA advises. Don’t miss these 10 popular travel tips that are no longer true.
Prohibition on foods in gel form
Ternavskaia Olga Alibec/Shutterstock
When it comes to carry-ons, the TSA has banned all liquid and gel foods larger than 3.4 ounces (as well as liquids and gels larger than 3.4 ounces that are not foods, such as hair gel, gel pens, and gel ice packs). If the item can be spilled, sprayed, spread, pumped or poured, you should pack it in checked luggage or leave it at home, according to the travel blog Recommend.
Even a cookie?
On a recent flight from Sacramento International Airport, Julie Sze, a professor at the University of California, Davis, was asked to remove a cookie from her carry-on bag and place it into a separate bin, the Sacramento Bee reports. Don’t fall for these 20 common myths about air travel.
You may as well unpack all your food…
Recently at the Denver International Airport, TSA was making everyone in the security line remove all their snacks and food products from their carry-on bags and place them in bowls and bins. “If you left any in there, they pulled your bag aside for enhanced screening,” according to travel blog Running with Miles, resulting in a waiting time that averaged an extra 30 minutes.
Books aren’t banned—thank goodness—but you may be asked to remove any you have in your carry-on and place them in a bin for closer scrutiny; TSA agents may fan through the pages to see if anything is hidden. This is even more likely to happen if you’re carrying multiple books, which could get in the way of X-ray screening. Plan to place your books in a bin before being asked. Here are 13 more things that make you more likely to get flagged by the TSA.
It might seem strange that magazines are now subject to increased scrutiny by TSA agents, particularly since many of the magazines that end up on airplanes are actually purchased in the airport—but it’s true: A gate guard may page through your periodicals.
Unidentified objects won’t fly
“Items that cannot be identified and resolved at the checkpoint are prohibited from entering the cabin of the aircraft,” the TSA announced in a press release. That means that the contents of your carry-on bags will be subject to more scrutiny than they have been in the past. If you’d rather not have everything displayed in public, you can request a private screening. Check out these 16 other air travel mistakes you need to stop making before your next flight.
Tips on being prepared
The TSA advises that the best way to ensure a quick trip through the security screening process is to prepare:
- Arrive two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight
- Know what you might have to remove from your carry-on before arriving at the security line
- Consider packing items that are subject to increased scrutiny in your checked baggage
- Minimize items that you wear to the airport such as bulky jewelry, scarves, accessories, and if you must wear them, place what you can in bins
And be sure to retrieve everything you placed in bins. Don’t miss these 40 secrets airline pilots won’t tell you.