The U.S. Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has been rolling out new rules over the summer at various airports globally as well as domestically. My friends who have been traveling out of Orlando have already been reporting long security lines and we haven’t even hit the holiday travel season yet. At my home airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor, I have yet to notice long lines, but I have noticed some changes to what they are screening in the carry on bags. Here’s what you need to know before your next flight.
Electronics – Those airports in the testing program are now requiring that any electronics larger than a cell phone be taken out of the bag and placed in a bin with nothing below or on top of them similar to how laptops have been for years. In other words, those tablets and hand-held gaming systems that used to stay in your bag now need to come out. As of right now, this is only at certain airports, but since TSA hasn’t released a list of those airports and that list could expand, it’s best to be prepared at any airport.
Food – Snacks are now being heavily scrutinized. I learned this from personal experience. We had four individual-size bags of peanut M&Ms in our carry on. Our bag was flagged for additional security and the TSA officer immediately asked if we had snacks in the bag. We told him about the peanut M&Ms and where to find them. He pulled out all four bags and swabbed them to test for explosive residue. Several friends have also reported having to remove their snacks from their carry on bags if not for additional screening, at least to go through the detector separately similar to electronics. Of course, the restrictions on food items that are not solid (jams, honey, yogurt, etc.) are still subject to the 3 oz. (3-1-1) rule.
According to the TSA website, these new rules don’t apply to those with TSA Precheck. My experience shows differently. While I have yet to be asked to take any electronics out of our bag in a Precheck lane, the M&M incident happened in Precheck.
What does this mean for you? The biggest thing is that whenever TSA makes a change to rules, the lines get longer as both the officers and the customers adapt. With the holidays approaching, be prepared for really long lines by arriving at the airport extra early.