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TSA is making 3 changes to stop coronavirus from spreading on planes

Published May 22nd, 2020 9:47AM EDT
Coronavirus US
Image: MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
  • The COVID-19 coronavirus’ US impact continues to be felt far and wide, with few industries impacted by the outbreak of the pandemic as much as hospitality and travel.
  • As Americans gear up to celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, some travelers will want to get out of the house finally — and, more specifically, to actually get out of town.
  • Here are some of the coronavirus-related changes you can expect from the TSA if your travels include a flight this weekend.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

Travel industry professionals are especially keen to see how the next several days unfold, both to see whether the Memorial Day weekend brings an uptick in travelers deciding to hit the road or take to the skies — and, also, what kind of effect that will have on the COVID-19 coronavirus’ US toll.

Already, we’ve heard horror stories about the dystopian-sounding experiences that some fliers are having, including the sight of flight attendants in hazmat suits. In preparation for making cabins safe for fliers and airline employees alike, carriers have resorted to measures including flying at reduced capacity, keeping middle seats open, stepping up cleaning procedures, and requiring employees and fliers to wear face masks. But the coronavirus-related changes you’ll encounter if you plan to head out of town this weekend extend well beyond the plane’s cabin, with the TSA having also just announced several new procedures it’s starting to roll out to keep everyone safe from the virus that’s now infected almost 1.6 million people in the US as of the time of this writing.

In its announcements about the new procedures, which include at least three changes that fliers may not be aware of beforehand, the TSA noted that these are meant to help curb the spread of the coronavirus and minimize touches and interaction between people. Also, the implementation has already begun as part of a nationwide rollout that will continue into the coming weeks.

“In the interest of TSA frontline workers and traveler health, TSA is committed to making prudent changes to our screening processes to limit physical contact and increase physical distance as much as possible,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said about the changes, which include:

Fliers will scan their own boarding passes. This one should come as no surprise, as it’s an easy interaction to eliminate. Instead of walking up to an agent and handing over your license and boarding pass, now you’ll place your boarding pass on the scanner yourself. You’ll also hold the pass to let the agent inspect it — again, reducing the exchange of items between people to cut down on the spread of germs.

Separate food. Carry-on food items should be placed into a clear plastic bag, and then that bag placed into a bin. Since food often triggers an alarm during screening, separating the food like this reduces the chance that an officer will need to open the carry-on bag for a closer inspection.

Pack smarter. “Passengers should take extra care to ensure that they do not have any prohibited items, such as liquids, gels, or aerosols in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces in their carry-on bags (water bottles, shampoo),” the TSA notes in its announcement. “In response to COVID-19, TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger, in carry-on bags.” You’ll have to remove the hand sanitizer from the carry-on bag before being submitted for X-ray screening — and, more importantly, if your bag is found to contain a prohibited item, you’ll be directed to the table outside the security line to remove the item and to then get yourself re-screened by security.

“By resolving alarms in this manner, TSA officers will need to touch the contents inside a carry-on bag much less frequently, reducing the potential for cross-contamination,” the agency explains.

Of course, these measures are in addition to the other critical components of coronavirus protective actions. You’ll still be directed to remain socially distanced from other passengers, and wearing a face mask or covering is also highly encouraged.


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Andy Meek Trending News Reporter

Andy Meek is a reporter who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming. Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.