COVID19: TSA Rolls out New Screening Rules and Extra Heath Check Ahead of Summer Travel

With the beginning of summer travel on the Memorial Day Weekend, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has introduced new guidelines to be aligned with the airport security screening process across the COVID19-hit USA. Ensuring minimum physical contact and maximum physical distance is the objective of the changes that TSA has started implementing to the way security screening is done at US airports.

Given the COVID19 proliferation in the US, the TSA screening procedures at airport checkpoints continue to be upgraded in the interest of health and safety of both TSA frontline workers and travelers. As a steady growth in the movement of travelers over the past few weeks exposes the TSA workers to contracting the viral disease, US airports’ anti-COVID19 preparedness for summer travel will be in full swing by mid-June.

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The new TSA rules for screening amid the COVID19 crisis require travelers to scan their own boarding passes, paper or electronic, on the reader instead of handing them over to the TSA officer. Once the boarding passes are scanned, they should hold up them to the TSA officer for visual inspection. This change to the screening procedure at airport checkpoints facilitates contactless inspection of boarding passes and reduces chances for cross-contamination.

In view of safety protocols against COVID19, TSA calls for separate X-ray screening of food at US airports. The new changes to the airport screening procedure require passengers to take their carry-on food items out of the cabin bags and place those on a tray for the X-ray machine. “Food items often trigger a security alarm during the screening process,” a TSA frontline worker says. With food items separated from carry-on bags during screening, TSA officers need not touch cabin bags and food items. It leaves little room for cross-contamination.

In response to COVID19, TSA recommends smart packing to travellers. Keys, phones, wallets and belts should be put in carry-ons or handbags. Unlike normal times, travellers should be conscious enough to make sure that they do not carry prohibited items including liquids in more than permissible quantities in their handbags. However, one bottle or pouch of hand sanitizer up to 12 ounces is allowed in cabin handbags, considering it an essential requirement for prevention of COVID19. Travellers need to remove the hand sanitizer before pushing their carry-on bags through the X-ray machine. If an alarm is triggered due to some prohibited item in the carry-on bag, the traveller will be asked to remove the item from the bag and resubmit the bag for the X-ray screening.

Temperature screening of travelers is one of the ‘new normal’ TSA rules for airport security checkpoints during summer travel 2020. TSA is gearing up with a plan to implement specific health screening measures at major airports in view of the Coronavirus pandemic. TSA is planning to deploy its officers to perform a temperature check on travelers at airport entry gates and during boarding just the way the passengers of Air India flights for repatriation from USA to India are being screened. Major airlines including Delta, United and American Airlines have called for the TSA to allow their own personnel for passengers’ temperature screening.

Passengers’ temperature check has become part of the airport check-in procedure and the airline boarding process across India. Air Canada’s temperature screening policy requiring travelers to undergo a touch-less temperature check was implemented with effect on May 15. Any flyer reporting a temperature of 99.6 degrees or higher will be barred from boarding Air Canada flights. Singapore Airlines and Air France have also implemented the same policy for their passengers. London Heathrow and some of the major airports in the US are being equipped with thermal cameras to scan people for feverish temperature.

Social distancing and face covering are the new mandates among the current TSA rules for air travelers. Travelers might be requested to adjust their face masks or facial covering to help verify their identity at airport security checkpoints.

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