Friday, November 23, 2012

TSA 2012 Holiday Travel Tips & News

Holiday travel banner

We’re once again coming up on the busiest travel time of the year. I can’t believe it’s here already. I know I say that every year, but it seems like it gets here faster every year! TSA is fully staffed and prepared for the high volume of passengers this holiday season. We have coordinated staffing and are committed to processing passengers as safely and efficiently as possible. Passengers can make their experience better by coming prepared and arriving early.

As I’ve done the last several years, I’ve put a list of travel tips, news, and helpful links together to make your holiday travel a little easier.

TSA Precheck logo.
Risk Based Expedited Screening: TSA has implemented TSA Pre✓™, an expedited prescreening initiative for known travelers, active duty service members and airline crewmembers at select airports, and modified procedures for screening passengers 12 and under and 75 and older to reduce, although not eliminate, the need for a pat-down. TSA Pre✓™ is currently available in 32 airports and will be in 35 airports by the end of the year.

TSA Contact Center Logo
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. Unfortunately, we can’t assist with questions related to preparing a turkey or any other delicious holiday staples.

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.

Smart phone with My TSA app screenshot.
The MyTSA App: Want TSA information anywhere, anytime?  Use the MyTSA app. Among the great features, there’s a “Can I Bring My…” tool. Want to know if you can pack a turducken or a light saber? This is the tool for you. 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. This isn’t a Magic 8 Ball, so please don’t expect it to prophetically answer yes and no questions. A wait time feature is also available. It relies on crowd sourcing, which means the more people who use it, the better. 

TSA Canine Seal 
Expanded Use of Canines: To further enhance explosive detection screening, TSA is expanding its use of canine teams and deploying them throughout the airport environment, including the security checkpoint. These teams are trained to detect trace amounts of explosives that are present in the air.
Wrapped Gifts
 Wrapped gifts are allowed, but not encouraged: Wrapped gifts are allowed, but we recommend waiting until you land. If there’s something in the gift that needs to be inspected, we may have to open it. Our officers try their best not to mangle the gift wrap, but it’s not a guarantee and it also slows down the line for everybody else when we have to do this. We’d rather unwrap the gifts that are under our trees.

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 if 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.

  • 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. Eggnog can be an alternate to fuel depending on who’s mixing it. Sometimes there’s a fine line between a beverage and hazmat. Just sayin’…
  • 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.
  • Deodorant: Stick deodorant is not limited to 3.4 oz or less, but gel or spray deodorant is.
  • Some Snow Globes are Permitted Now: TSA now allows small snow globes in carry-on luggage when packed in a passenger's plastic 3-1-1 bag. Snow globes that appear to contain less than 3.4 ounces (approximately tennis-ball size) will be permitted if the entire snow globe, including the base, is able to fit in the same one clear, plastic, quart-sized, re-sealable bag as a passenger’s other liquids.
  • Gel Inserts for shoes are now permitted.
  • Foods: Cakes, pies, bread, donuts, turkeys, etc. are all permitted. Here is a list of items that should be placed in your checked bags or shipped: cranberry sauce, creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.), gift baskets with liquid or gel food items (salsa, jams and salad dressings), gravy, jams, jellies, maple syrup, oils and vinegars, sauces, soups, wine, liquor and beer.

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 guns every day at checkpoints in the U.S.  A good percentage of those are loaded. Save yourself the hassle of a bag check, a police interview and a potential arrest by making sure you leave your gun at home.

Pat-downs & Body Scanners: A very small percentage of passengers receive pat-downs. To reduce the need for a pat-down, the most important thing you can do is take everything out of your pockets before screening. You can put these 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. You will also receive a pat-down if you choose to opt out of our Advanced Imaging Technology (Body Scanners). Check out this post to read some myths and facts about the pat-down. If you have a hidden medical device (insulin pump, ostomy bag, brace, etc.), please let the officer know.

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

Forgotten or Lost IDs: If you have lost or forgotten your ID, you will still be permitted to fly as long as you help us verify you are who you say you are by answering a few questions.

Follow us on Twitter for travel tips, blog post announcements, and other useful information. You can find a list of our national and regional twitter accounts here. Also, be sure to print out this handy travel checklist prior to packing. 

Happy Holidays!

If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact us by clicking here.

TSA Week in Review: Pen Pistol Discovered at Allentown (ABE)

A pen pistol discovered at Allentown (ABE).
A pen pistol discovered at Allentown (ABE).

We’ve Been Expecting You, Mr. Bond: A pen pistol (unloaded) was discovered in the carry-on bag of an Allentown (ABE) passenger. At first, the passenger claimed it was just and pen and later admitted it was a gun. 

Odd Watch Discovered at Oakland (OAK).

Odd Watch Discovered at Oakland (OAK)


Odd Watch Discovered at Oakland (OAK):  A strange watch resembling an IED component was discovered at Oakland. Check out my post from earlier this week for more information.


A magazine with seven rounds of .32 caliber ammo.
A magazine with seven rounds of .32 caliber ammo.

Ammo in Pocket: Usually, passengers just have keys or spare change in their pockets when they alarm the body scanners, but a passenger at Detroit (DTW) had a magazine with seven rounds of .32 caliber ammo in his pocket.

4 Inert Hand Grenades.

Inert Ordnance and Grenades Etc. – We continue to find inert hand grenades and other weaponry on weekly basis. Please keep in mind that if an item looks like a realistic bomb, grenade, mine, etc., it is prohibited - real or not. When these items are found at a checkpoint or in checked baggage, they can cause significant delays. I know they are cool novelty items, but it is best not to take them on a plane.  Read here and here on why inert items cause problems.
  • Four inert grenades were discovered this week. Two in checked bags at San Francisco (SFO) and Las Vegas (LAS), and the other two in a carry-on bag at LaGuardia (LGA). The grenade from LAS was discovered in the bag of a 13-year-old who stated he had it for the zombie apocalypse.

     A lipstick knife was discovered at Salt Lake City (SLC).     A box cutter was found taped to the wall of a passenger’s bag -- under the lining at Sacramento (SMF)     Two belt buckle knives were discovered this week at Bradley (BDL) and Houston (HOU).     A pocketknife was discovered in a gum tin at Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP).

Items in the Strangest Places –It’s important to check your bags prior to traveling. If a prohibited item is discovered in your bag, you could be cited and possibly arrested by local law enforcement. Here are a few examples from this week where prohibited items were found in strange places.
  • A lipstick knife was discovered at Salt Lake City (SLC).
  • A box cutter was found taped to the wall of a passenger’s bag -- under the lining at Sacramento (SMF)
  • Two belt buckle knives were discovered this week at Bradley (BDL) and Houston (HOU).
  • A pocketknife was discovered in a gum tin at Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP).

What Not to Say at an Airport – Statements like these not only delay the people who said them but can also inconvenience many other passengers if the checkpoint or terminal has to be evacuated:
  • While at the ticket counter, a passenger at Gulf Port (GPT) stated that he “possibly had a bomb in his bag.” He later explained his reasoning. He thought his statement would get him through security faster.
  • A passenger at Charlotte (CLT) who was informed she couldn’t take an item on the plane stated: “I hope someone comes in here and blows you all up.”

Stun cane discovered at CLE.
Stun cane discovered at CLE.

Stun Guns –  Four stun guns were discovered this week in a carry-on bags around the nation: Two were discovered at Denver (DEN), one at Richmond (RIC), and lastly, the one discovered at Cleveland (CLE) was affixed to the end of a walking cane!

Miscellaneous Prohibited Items - In addition to all of the other prohibited items we find weekly, our Officers also regularly find firearm components, realistic replica firearms, bb and pellet guns, Airsoft guns, brass knuckles, ammunition, batons, and a lot of sharp pointy things -- to mention a few…

Firearms - Here are pictures of some of the firearms our Officers found in carry-on baggage since I posted last Friday. See a complete list below. 

Loaded guns.
5 loaded pistols.
4 loaded pistols.

35 guns discovered in carry-on bags last week. 28 were loaded.

You can travel with your firearms in checked baggage, but they must first be declared to the airline. You can go here for more details on how to properly travel with your firearms. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. Travelers should familiarize themselves with state and local firearm laws for each point of travel prior to departure

Unfortunately these sorts of occurrences are all too frequent which is why we talk about these finds. Sure, it’s great to share the things that our officers are finding, but at the same time, each time we find a dangerous item, the throughput is slowed down and a passenger that likely had no ill intent ends up with a citation or in some cases is even arrested. This is a friendly reminder to please leave these items at home. Just because we find a prohibited item on an individual does not mean they had bad intentions, that's for the law enforcement officer to decide. In many cases, people simply forgot they had these items.

If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact us by clicking here.