Friday, May 25, 2012

Summer Travel Tips & News!





Summer travel tips banner. Summer’s almost here! I know this not because of my calendar, but because my daughters keep reminding me about the pool… With summer often comes travel, so if you’re traveling by commercial airliner, you’ll likely find some of the news and tips in this post helpful.

There are a few new things to talk about this summer. The TSA Contact Center has extended their hours, and we’ve modified screening procedures for low-risk passengers.  Also, TSA Pre✓™ continues to grow with more airports and airlines coming on board. Read on to learn more about what’s new with TSA and also pick up a few travel tips along the way.

How to Avoid Additional Screening:  The most important tip to help you avoid a pat-down is to take everything out of your pockets before screening and put items in your carry-on bag. Don't wear clothes with a high metal content, and put heavy jewelry on after you go through security.  If you have a hidden medical device (insulin pump, ostomy bag, brace, etc.), please let the officer know.

Screenshot of summer travel tips checklist. TSA Pre Expedited Screening: TSA Pre✓™  continues to grow, providing expedited screening to eligible passengers at 15 airports, with plans to expand to more airports and airlines throughout 2012. If you’ve been contacted by your participating airline or if you’re a current member of one of CBP’s Trusted Traveler programs (Global Entry, NEXUS or SENTRI), be sure to opt in.  If you would like to participate, click here and follow the simple directions to apply to become eligible for expedited screening.  Click here to learn more about where TSA Pre✓™ is and where it’s coming to.

Other Risk Based Security Initiatives:  Since last fall, TSA has implemented modified screening procedures for passengers 12 and younger. Passengers 12 and younger can now leave their shoes on during security screening. These new screening procedures also include permitting an additional pass through advanced imaging technology to clear any alarms, as well as greater use of explosives trace detection. 
Additionally, TSA recently concluded a modified screening pilot program for passengers ages 75 and older. As the program proceeds toward full implementation, passengers 75 and older will undergo similar modified screening procedures to those 12 and under and will be able to leave on a light jacket or outwear when passing through security. Passengers 75 and older may see these procedures in place as they travel this summer.
TSA Contact Center: The Contact Center hours were recently extended and a representative is now available Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. Eastern time; weekends and federal holidays, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Eastern time. The TCC can be reached at 866-289-9673. Passengers can also reach out to the TSA Contact Center (TCC) with questions about TSA procedures, upcoming travel or to provide feedback or voice concerns.

TSA Cares Helpline: Travelers or families of passengers with disabilities and medical conditions may call the TSA Cares helpline toll free 855-787-2227, 72 hours prior to traveling with any questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. A TSA Cares helpline representative is available during all TSA Contact Center hours.

The MyTSA App: Want TSA information anywhere, anytime?  Use the MyTSA app.  Among the great features, there’s a “Can I Bring My…” tool. Type in the name of the item you’re curious about and it tells you if the item is permitted or not, along with packing tips. Wondering if you can take your bug repellant on the plane? Check the app to find out. A wait time feature is also available. It relies on crowd sourcing which means the more people who use it, the better.

The 4-1-1 on 3-1-1 (Liquids, Gels & Aerosols): If you’re checking a bag, make things simple by packing liquids in your checked luggage. That way, you don’t have to worry about the 3-1-1 liquids rules.  (If you’re concerned about them leaking, do what I do and put them in a zip-top bag.)  But I know that doesn’t work for everyone; either your trip is a short one or you’re only bringing a carry-on bag.  If you have to take liquids in your carry-on, please continue reading… 3-1-1 is a quick way to remember how our liquids policy works. You can read here for more details, but here is the gist: each passenger is allowed to take as many 3.4 ounce or less sized containers that will fit in one sealed clear quart-sized zip-top bag – and one bag per person.   Make sure you take the zip-top bag out of your carry-on prior to sending it through the X-ray.

Here is some information on frequently asked liquid, aerosol and gel items:

  • Suntan & Sun Block Lotion: Lotions fall under the 3-1-1 procedures that I mentioned above. So do the aerosol spray lotions. Sun block sticks do not fall under this rule.
  • Makeup: Any liquid makeup cosmetics such as eyeliner, nail polish, liquid foundation, etc. should be placed in the baggie. That goes for perfume as well. Powder makeup is fine.
  • Beverages: Wine, liquor, beer, and all of your favorite beverages are permitted in your checked baggage. You can also  bring beverages packaged in 3.4 oz or less bottles in your carry-on bags in the 3-1-1 baggie.
Sporting Goods: Golf clubs, baseball bats (including the mini slugger bats), cricket bats, bows and arrows, hockey sticks, scuba knives, spear guns, etc. are all prohibited from being carried onto the plane. However, you can have put them in your checked bag.

Destination Weddings: Getting married soon? We’ve been asked about it a lot lately on our MyTSA app, so we wrote a post on it. Be sure to check it out for some great tips.

Camping, Hunting, or Fishing?: If you’re heading to the great outdoors, be sure to check out this post for tips on traveling with camping, hunting, and fishing gear.

Double Check Your Bag for Guns: Seriously!!! It sounds silly, but if you read our Week in Review posts, you’ll see that our officers find at least two guns every day at checkpoints in the U.S.  A good percentage of those were loaded. The most common excuse is that the passenger didn’t know it was there or forgot it was in the bag. Save yourself the hassle of a bag check, a police interview and a potential arrest by making sure you leave your gun at home.

Shaving Razors: You can get more info from our blog post on this subject where the pictures will answer all of your questions.

Lost or Forgotten IDs:  We’ve gotten many calls from people who’ve had a wallet stolen or lost on a trip and have no ID for their return trip.  Don’t worry, if this happens to you, you’ll still be permitted to fly as long as you help us verify you are who you say you are by answering a few questions.  It’s wise to get to the airport a little earlier just to be safe.


If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.

37 comments:

RB said...

Mentioned are people with insulin pumps. Some insulin pump manufacturers warn users to not use screening devices such as any form of X-ray or Whole Body Imager yet TSA fails to caution the public to this danger.

Why? Why does TSA disregard the safety of insulin pump users?

Insulin Pump User said...

In my experience as an insulin pump user, I find more helpful to NOT mention my pump, unless I'm asked to go through the AIT scanner. I have to opt out because my pump manufacturer says not to go through the scanners. I observe the checkpoint and try to select lanes that only have the metal detectors. My pump doesn't set off the metal detectors.

I've found that mentioning the pump, even with metal detector only lanes, subjects me to extra scrutiny and patdowns. Why go through that hassle when I can likely get through a metal detector unmolested by not saying anything.

I don't mind if the TSA wants to swab my pump. I just am tired of getting the enhanced patdowns simply because I wear a pump that can't go through the scanners.

Laura Monteros said...

Bob, I don't have a medical condition, but I think the posts above make a point that concerns me. If a person has certification from a medical doctor about their condition--whether it's an insulin pump or joint replacement--why should they have to go through additional screening or a process that might be detrimental?

Anonymous said...

My plan to make summer travel easier is to avoid flying and drive.

I hope that eventually the airlines will figure out they they are loosing customers.

RB said...

Insulin Pump User said...
In my experience as an insulin pump user, I find more helpful to NOT mention my pump, unless I'm asked to go through the AIT scanner. I have to opt out because my pump manufacturer says not to go through the scanners. I observe the checkpoint and try to select lanes that only have the metal detectors. My pump doesn't set off the metal detectors.

I've found that mentioning the pump, even with metal detector only lanes, subjects me to extra scrutiny and patdowns. Why go through that hassle when I can likely get through a metal detector unmolested by not saying anything.

I don't mind if the TSA wants to swab my pump. I just am tired of getting the enhanced patdowns simply because I wear a pump that can't go through the scanners.

May 26, 2012 11:05 AM
....................

You shouldn't have to tell anything about your medical history, nothing at all.

What TSA should be doing and is not is advising the public that WBI and X-ray devices may damage Insulin Pumps and CGM's and advise those people that they are not eligible for that type of screening.

The point is that TSA could care less about your health and safety.

Anonymous said...

Let's see...12 and under you don't get abused, and 75 and older you don't get abused. Seems to me we are teetering on on discrimiation here now.

Why are they the only group you don't deem dangerous. Why are a 12 year old's shoes safer than mine?

Also, I STILL have had no comment or explanation as to WHY my skin turned read and burned when your "safe swab" touched me! Even when I asked a TSA person DIRECTLY.

Bob [not the blogger] said...

==I STILL have had no comment or explanation as to WHY my skin turned read [sic] and burned when your "safe swab" touched me! Even when I asked a TSA person DIRECTLY.==

I'm just guessin' here, but pro'bly cuz the TSO is not a doctor.

Bob [not the blogger' said...

==My plan to make summer travel easier is to avoid flying and drive.

I hope that eventually the airlines will figure out they they are loosing customers.==

They know people are choosing to go another way and that that number is insignificant. In business, there ARE acceptable losses.

==If a person has certification from a medical doctor about their condition--whether it's an insulin pump or joint replacement--why should they have to go through additional screening or a process that might be detrimental?==

To reconcile an alarm and/or to determine whether the item is a weapon, or has been weaponized.

What process is "detrimental"? From whose point of view?

==...TSA could care less about your health and safety.==

Soooo, there still room for TSA caring? Maybe you mean, "couldn't care less," huh.

Anonymous said...

Bob [not the blogger' said...
"They know people are choosing to go another way and that that number is insignificant. In business, there ARE acceptable losses."

Got any data to back up your claim of "insignificant"? Or is that just the number you want to believe is true?

Anonymous said...

And pleas don´t add insult to injury by going through backscatter scanners after you bathe in the sun. Both cause skin cancer.

From a concerned doctor.

Wintermute said...

Legitimate, on-topic comments have not been approved for a couple of days. What's up, TSA?

Anonymous said...

"What process is "detrimental"? From whose point of view?"

That's an easy one, Bob. The process that is security kabuki with no significant addition to security. The process that shreds Constitutional liberties by empowering an uneducated and poorly trained workforce to terrorize the traveling public by, for example, making senior citizens remove back braces and ruining insulin pumps. The process that puts accused pedophiles in contact with the public (PHL and the defrocked priest). The process that calls screeners "officers" but fails to conduct the due diligence background checks before putting them in contact with the public.

The process that adamantly refuses to "profile" on the basis that doing so would be unconstitutional while it profiles senior citizens as not representing as high a security threat as those who are younger; profiling in deed while denied in name.

The process that "randomly" screens for explosives; the statistical equivalent of investing money by buying lottery tickets, although you're much more likely to do well by investing in the lottery than the TSA is likely to catch a "terrorist" in the manner it uses.

George said...

What this post really means is that if you're an entirely ordinary sheep, with no medical devices, unusual items, or other "special" concerns, even an inept TSO should be able to screen you with no more difficulty than the hassle and intrusion that the TSA has defined as "security."

But if you're unfortunate enough to have some exceptional items or unusual needs, you have a high risk of trouble. It all depends on the competence, training, and whims of the TSO who happens to be directing your walk-on role in the production of TSA Security Theatre currently playing at that checkpoint at that moment. And the TSA tolerates a very wide variation in the competence, training, and attitude of individual TSOs.

If you're fortunate enough to get a TSO who meets the standards of knowledge, competence, professionalism, and courtesy that Blogger Bob insists all TSOs should meet, you'll probably have an easy time if you follow the published guidelines. That TSO may even help you negotiate the maze. But if you're unlucky enough to get one who doesn't know the rules and how to apply them properly, all bets are off. The handling of "exceptions" is where the competence of individual TSOs becomes critical. It's where you'll most often find the disconnect between what Blogger Bob says should happen and what too often does (or does not) happen at checkpoints.

As Blogger Bob so often notes, all TSOs should be competent and courteous; and those with "exceptions" should have a reasonably smooth screening experience if they follow the guidelines. Unfortunately, the TSA has earned itself a terrible reputation for variation and inconsistency. So it's impossible for anyone to be sure that any TSO will know and apply the rules and procedures correctly, or whether they'll bully someone who speaks up when the rules and procedures are not applied correctly. It appears that TSA leadership does not consider this a problem.

In practice, that means if your life or health depend on a competent TSO knowing the rules and applying them correctly, you should not fly. And if you must fly, you need to plan for the very real possibility of an incompetent TSO damaging or confiscating whatever equipment you're carrying, or else inflicting needless embarrassment or humiliation.

This is not something anyone should accept. But if the answer to "Do you want to fly today?" is "Unfortunately yes," there is no other choice. TSA leadership have consistently demonstrated that they have no interest in correcting the systemic problems that allow so many "incidents" to occur. They apparently don't consider it a problem. The anonymous commenter whose "plan to make summer travel easier is to avoid flying and drive" has the right idea. Unfortunately, that's not always practical.

Anonymous said...

A more truthful version of Bob's post:

If you're going to fly, there's good reason to expect the worst when you enter a TSA checkpoint. We're enormously proud of being the government agency that so many people hate, since we regard that as proof we're providing highly effective security. We think we're doing an excellent job. If you disagree, we don't care.

Always remember that we have the exclusive power to grant or deny you the privilege of flying. So you'd better show our officers the proper respect if you want to fly today, regardless of how they treat you. They deserve respect and courtesy. You don't. And any unpleasantness that might occur during screening is entirely the passenger's fault.

We're the TSA. We do whatever we want, however we want. And we don't care what you think of us.

Anonymous said...

Got any tips on how to make sure my children don't come into contact with ex-Catholic priests defrocked for inappropriately touching children while in the "ministry" when passing through a TSA checkpoint?

Anonymous said...

RB said...
Mentioned are people with insulin pumps. Some insulin pump manufacturers warn users to not use screening devices such as any form of X-ray or Whole Body Imager yet TSA fails to caution the public to this danger.

Why? Why does TSA disregard the safety of insulin pump users?

May 26, 2012 7:06 AM

---------------
RB, you answered your own question:
"Some insulin pump manufacturers warn users to not use screening devices such as any form of X-ray or Whole Body Imager"

The manufacturer has already warned the patient. As you yourself has said, TSOs/TSA are not doctors.

It's not TSAs responsibility. You should be aware of any health concerns your condition may warrant. If you wear a pump, it's on you to determine if things you do, including going through screening, may be detrimental to your health. It's called personal responsibility. Something most americans are sorely lacking.

Anonymous said...

I On Monday (Labor Day), a man just released from prison in San Diago was able to bypass all of these TSA measures (including the nudie machine) and board a plane without even so much as a boarding pass.

Who was the hero? A TSA person? No. A flight attendant.

I know, I know...more training...

GSOLTSO said...

Wintermute sez - "Legitimate, on-topic comments have not been approved for a couple of days. What's up, TSA?"

The blog is a part time endeavor for the team members, as such there will be a couple of days here and there where some posts are not approved/disapproved because there are simply not people here to do so. The last couple of days were such a case.

West
TSA Blog Team

Anonymous said...

Yet another huge TSA fail:
http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/30/travel/security-bypassed/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

More proof that the TSA offers no real protection.

Anonymous said...

GSOLTSO said...

The blog is a part time endeavor for the team members, as such there will be a couple of days here and there where some posts are not approved/disapproved because there are simply not people here to do so. The last couple of days were such a case.

Which means that the TSA puts a low priority on approving posts and and an even lower priority in answering questions.

Thank you for pointing how important TSA considers customer feedback.

Sandra said...

Anonymous wrote in response to RB:

"The manufacturer has already warned the patient. As you yourself has said, TSOs/TSA are not doctors.

It's not TSAs responsibility. You should be aware of any health concerns your condition may warrant. If you wear a pump, it's on you to determine if things you do, including going through screening, may be detrimental to your health. It's called personal responsibility. Something most americans are sorely lacking."

Sadly, I can point you to a place where an alleged screener has stated that he/she would tell a passenger to go through whole body scanning with an insulin pump even if the passenger has said he/she has been advised not to do so. Said screener would do this even with the knowledge that some manufacturers strongly advise against it.

screen shot

RB said...

Anonymous said...
RB said...
Mentioned are people with insulin pumps. Some insulin pump manufacturers warn users to not use screening devices such as any form of X-ray or Whole Body Imager yet TSA fails to caution the public to this danger.

Why? Why does TSA disregard the safety of insulin pump users?

May 26, 2012 7:06 AM

---------------
RB, you answered your own question:
"Some insulin pump manufacturers warn users to not use screening devices such as any form of X-ray or Whole Body Imager"

The manufacturer has already warned the patient. As you yourself has said, TSOs/TSA are not doctors.

It's not TSAs responsibility. You should be aware of any health concerns your condition may warrant. If you wear a pump, it's on you to determine if things you do, including going through screening, may be detrimental to your health. It's called personal responsibility. Something most americans are sorely lacking.

May 30, 2012 5:21 PM
...................
Appropriate signage and advisement like TSA is already doing would the the right thing to do. Should a person not know that their pump may be one of the ones that should avoid the WBI or other x-ray devices or their health could be impacted.

Currently TSA does nothing to direct these people to acceptable sources of screening showing a complete lack of concern for peoples health.

Another demonstration by TSA that passengers are nothing more than cattle to TSA.

Wintermute said...

"The blog is a part time endeavor for the team members, as such there will be a couple of days here and there where some posts are not approved/disapproved because there are simply not people here to do so. The last couple of days were such a case."

Appreciate the response. However, during that time period, I made a comment which fit within guidelines. That comment was not approved. Neither were any others during that two-day period.

RB said...

GSOLTSO said...
Wintermute sez - "Legitimate, on-topic comments have not been approved for a couple of days. What's up, TSA?"
..............
The blog is a part time endeavor for the team members, as such there will be a couple of days here and there where some posts are not approved/disapproved because there are simply not people here to do so. The last couple of days were such a case.

West
TSA Blog Team

May 31, 2012 5:05 AM
................
With three moderators seems it shouldn't be to hard to keep up with the message flow.

Of course we also have to realize that at TSA it takes three times as many people to do the job of one person anywhere else. Just look at any checkpoint and watch the screeners stand around doing nothing.

Anonymous said...

Bob [not the blogger] said:
I'm just guessin' here, but pro'bly cuz the TSO is not a doctor.

Then why do TSA personnel tell passengers to disregard the directions from their physician and go through the so-called "body scanners" anyway?

Insulin Pump User said...

Ultimately it is the insulin pump user who needs to know whether or not they should go through the scanner. If the manufacturer says not to go through it, then don't.

However it isn't always as easy as saying "I opt out". The girl who had her pump damaged said she felt coerced into going through the scanner. I've had TSO's try to convince me that the scanner is safe for the pump. Maybe it is safe, but I'm not taking that chance when Animas says not to go through the scanner. People have the right to opt out and there should be no coercion, intimidation, or retaliation if somebody chooses to do so.

Anonymous said...

"It's not TSAs responsibility. You should be aware of any health concerns your condition may warrant. If you wear a pump, it's on you to determine if things you do, including going through screening, may be detrimental to your health. It's called personal responsibility. Something most americans are sorely lacking."

Sorry but legally you're incorrect. The TSA is a government agency that does extensive research on the effect of its machines and it subjects passengers to a mandatory process. It also employs doctors, nurses and health professionals - both directly and as contract employees. As such, liability is clearly assumed by the agency that does research as opposed to those who simply are ill members of the public.

The personal responsibility that you reference is small compared to the professional responsbility assumed by the TSA.

Sorry, but nice try.

Anonymous said...

GSOLTSO said...
The blog is a part time endeavor for the team members, as such there will be a couple of days here and there where some posts are not approved/disapproved because there are simply not people here to do so.

Exactly HOW many BILLIONS of dollars, and the TSA can't even hire a full-time blogger/publicist??

I know I should expect it by now, but they never cease to amaze me.

Anonymous said...

Still hoping for travel tips on avoiding the ex-priests defrocked for sexual improprieties that the TSA has on the payroll.

Nothing? Color me unsurprised.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with delays in posting comments due to the moderators' lack of time. This blog should not be a priority for the TSA. The moderators presumably have real jobs to do relating to protecting aviation, and that should be their priority.

But that makes me wonder what the real purpose of this blog is, and where it actually fits into the TSA's mission and priorities.

If I read and remember right, this blog is supposed to be a place for dialogue between the TSA and the public they purport to serve. It's supposed to help improve the public relations problems the TSA has, problems so serious the TSA doesn't even attempt to deny them.

But if that's the purpose, this blog seems to have failed. There's no dialogue. Bob puts up posts, which readers then attack in comments. Arguably, the posts invite attack. When they respond to the latest embarrassing incident reported in the press, Bob invariably defends, justifies, and/or excuses whatever the TSA employee did, and blames the passenger. Posts that crow about the latest weekly catches invite questions about the cost-effectiveness of the TSA and its intrusive screening "enhancements." Posts that attempt to elucidate the rules about what is permitted invite responses from people who have experienced TSOs who have acted contrary to what Bob said. And too often, the posts are written in way that Bob may consider cute or clever, but that comes across as condescending.

I see no evidence that anyone in the TSA bureaucracy actually reads the comments. The only thing I've seen is the occasional response from the blogging staff that attempts to rebut a comment, usually along the lines of "You're wrong, but I can't tell you why because it's SSI." Over the years, there have been many constructive and specific suggestions about ways the TSA could improve. But I see no evidence that anyone in the TSA is interested in hearing them, let alone implementing anything that doesn't come from Headquarters.

It's possible that Bob and his bosses actually consider this blog useful "engagement" with the public. Maybe they dutifully record the number of posts and comments as a metric in the classified PowerPoint charts they forward to Headquarters.

It's also possible that Bob's posts are intentionally designed to provoke outrage in comments. Bob and his staff carefully read and analyze the comments for insight into threats the traveling public (i.e., "the enemy") pose to the TSA and to national security. Those also get forwarded in classified reports to Headquarters.

However, I think it most likely that the blog comments are a "designated protest zone." It's an echo chamber where TSA critics and people who have good reason to be outraged and angry about the TSA can vent their frustration safely and harmlessly, where TSA leaders can be confident that nobody will hear it. Once critics have vented here, they may be less inclined to vent further in places where it can be heard, thereby reducing the amount of damage control Bob and his PR staff need to do.

Whatever the purpose of this blog, it's clearly not something that should be a priority for spending their taxpayer dollars.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"But that makes me wonder what the real purpose of this blog is, and where it actually fits into the TSA's mission and priorities."
[Interesting analysis snipped]

My personal guess is that the blog has no real purpose. Someone on top decided a blog sounded like a good idea and ordered someone to make one. Typical bureaucracy in action.

I doubt there was much thought given to exactly what to do with it. It's up to the moderators to decide what they want to do.

RB said...

I doubt there was much thought given to exactly what to do with it. It's up to the moderators to decide what they want to do.

June 2, 2012 8:51 AM
..................
That would make the individual moderators personally responsible for the First Amendment Civil Rights violations that are so prevalent here.

I don't think any form of immunity will protect the TSA Blog Team when this issue is finally dealt with since this blog has nothing to do with screening people for WEI.

Anonymous said...

Care to explain yet another circumvention of the Bill of Rights.

http://www.pixiq.com/article/tsa-continues-to-forbid-recording-of-checkpoint

Whats wrong curtis dont want TSAs failures and harassment of the public shown to the whole world?

<snap shot taken just incase of censorship to be sent to OIG)

Anonymous said...

Exactly how famous do I need to be to bypass your ridiculous security procedures? How is this decided? By the number of fans I have? Please clarify.

Anonymous said...

What TSA should be doing and is not is advising the public that WBI and X-ray devices may damage Insulin Pumps and CGM's and advise those people that they are not eligible for that type of screening.

The point is that TSA could care less about your health and safety.
cure problematic skin at home

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Anonymous said...

Anonymous said: Clicking the link for the "handy dandy summer travel checklist takes us to a "View Static 404 page not found" message. http://www.tsa.gov/assets/pdf/tsaSummer_cList.pdf Please fix. Thanks.