Tuesday, April 30, 2013

TSA Travel Tips Tuesday - Wearing Expensive Jewelry through TSA Checkpoints

Photo Courtesy of US Marshals
Some passengers come through TSA checkpoints wearing a simple piece of jewelry, and others are all blinged out like the A Team's Mr. T. 

So what’s the scoop? Should you remove jewelry or keep it on to go through security? The answer, in most cases is that you can keep it on, but there are a few different choices that you can make based on what kind of jewelry it is.

Here’s my advice:

  • Unless it’s a really bulky piece of jewelry, keep your jewelry on. Chances are, it won’t alarm and if it does, you can let our officer inspect it with you there. It really doesn’t take long to inspect, unless you are blinged out like the aforementioned Mr. T.
  • If you choose to remove your jewelry, and it’s expensive or has sentimental value, take it off and put it in your carry-on bag. Bowls have been known to tip over on conveyor belts, seemingly sending small jewelry into another dimension where it is never seen again.
  • If you’re wearing inexpensive jewelry and you don’t mind placing it in a bin or bowl, go for it.

In the event that an officer informs you that your jewelry might be the culprit as to why you alarmed a walk through metal detector or the Advanced Image Technology, the officer will work with you to clear the alarm.  It could involve a visual inspection or in some cases you might have to take it off.   

Bonus tip #1: Metal body piercings may cause an alarm at the metal detector, resulting in additional screening. You may be asked to remove your body piercing in private as an alternative to the pat-down search. 

Bonus Tip #2: Although not jewelry, I wanted to mention that your eye glasses can remain on. I’ve seen people take them off and stumble through the checkpoint. Your glasses should not cause an alarm, and in the unlikely event that they do, it’s better to keep them on than to take a spill.

See you next Tuesday with another travel tip! 

Bob Burns 
TSA Blog Team 

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

Friday, April 26, 2013

TSA Week in Review: 40 Firearms Discovered This Week. Human Skull Fragments Too!

40 Firearms Discovered This Week – of the 40 firearms, 31 were loaded and six had rounds chambered. See a complete list and more photos at the bottom of this post.

Loaded Firearm Discovered at AGS
Loaded Firearm Discovered at AGS
Items in the Strangest Places –It’s important to examine your bags prior to traveling to ensure no prohibited items are inside. If a prohibited item is discovered in your bag, you could be cited and quite possibly arrested by local law enforcement. Here are a few examples from this week where prohibited items were found in strange places. 
  • A knife was discovered concealed in the battery compartment of a laptop computer in a carry-on bag at Oakland (OAK).
Skull Fragments - If you are a regular reader of this weekly report, you know that our officers find some of the strangest things. Well… get ready for this one. While searching clay pots in a checked baggage location at Fort Lauderdale (FLL), our officers discovered human skull fragments! While the fragments weren’t a security threat, they did slow screening down a bit since the area quickly became a crime scene! The passengers had just purchased the pots, they said, stating that they had no idea skull fragments were inside.
Skull Fragments Discovered at FLL
Skull Fragments Discovered at FLL
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 in checkpoint screening. I know they are cool novelty items, but you cannot bring them on a plane. Read here and here on why inert items cause problems.

  • A replica grenade was discovered in a checked bag at Phoenix (PHX). 
Stun Guns – Eight stun guns were discovered this week in carry-on bags around the nation.  Two were discovered at Las Vegas (LAS), and the others at Burbank (BUR), Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Memphis (MEM), New Bern (EWN), Northwest Florida Regional (VPS), and San Francisco (SFO).

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:

  • A passenger at Miami (MIA), on his way to the restroom told the Sky Lounge bartender: “Take care of my briefcase, there is a bomb inside.” Two flights were delayed for one hour, affecting 280 passengers. This person was arrested on a state charge.
  • During a bag search at Minneapolis St. Paul (MSP), a passenger stated: “Go ahead, and check my bag. There may be a bomb in it.” Police Officers responded and determined the passenger was intoxicated and cited him on a local charge. 
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…

Sword Discovered in Carry-on Bag at LAX

Guns Discovered at (L-R) DEN, CLT, IAH, IAD, LAS, PIT, MSY
Guns Discovered at (L-R) DEN, CLT, IAH, IAD, LAS, PIT, MSY
Guns Discovered at (L-R) MAF, SHV, TUL, CLT, HSV
Guns Discovered at (L-R) MAF, SHV, TUL, CLT, HSV

40 Firearms Discovered This Week – of the 40 firearms, 31 were loaded and six had rounds chambered.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. The passenger can face a penalty as high as $7,500.00. 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.

*In order to provide a timely weekly update, I compile my data from a preliminary report. The year-end numbers will vary slightly (increase) from what I report in the weekly updates. However, any monthly, midyear, or end-of-year numbers TSA provides on this blog or elsewhere will not be estimates.

If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure you check out our post highlighting the dangerous, scary, and downright unusual items our officers found in 2012. The 2011 list can be found here.

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

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Passengers May Now Receive Notification of TSA Pre✓™ Eligibility on Boarding Passes

Examples of Boarding Passes with the TSA Pre✓™ Logo Circled
Click for More Info
Good news for eligible TSA Pre✓™ passengers! Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways are beginning to pre-notify passengers on boarding passes if they are eligible for TSA Pre✓™.  By notifying passengers of their TSA Pre✓™ status, passengers are able to better route themselves to the TSA Pre✓™ lane for expedited screening.

Delta and US Airways passengers will see “TSA PRECHCK” on printed boarding passes and the TSA Pre✓™ logo on mobile boarding passes. United passengers will see the TSA Pre✓™ logo on printed boarding passes. Some types of boarding passes may not support the TSA Pre✓™ notification feature at this time. Be sure to visit our website for up-to-date boarding pass specifications. 

Wondering what a TSA Pre✓™ notification may look like? Here is a helpful guide for what to look for! 

Eligible passengers will see a TSA Pre✓™ indicator on all boarding passes, even when flying out of an airport where TSA Pre✓™ is not available.  Eligible passengers should plan ahead and check out the location chart to see where TSA Pre✓™ is available for the participating airlines. If TSA Pre✓™ is unavailable, passengers should proceed to the standard security lanes.

Soon other TSA Pre✓™ participating airlines will be capable of similarly notifying their passengers.  Once fully operational, it will be easier for all participating passengers to know if they should go to the TSA Pre✓™ lane or to the standard security lanes.

If TSA determines a passenger is eligible for expedited screening, information is embedded in the barcode of the passenger’s boarding pass. The TSA Officers will still scan the boarding pass at the document checking station to verify TSA Pre✓™ status. While passengers with the TSA Pre✓™ indicator have been pre-cleared to access the TSA Pre✓™ lane, no passenger is ever guaranteed expedited screening. TSA continues to incorporate random, unpredictable screening measures to ensure the safety of passengers.

TSA Pre✓™ is currently available at 40 airports nationwide and participating passengers no longer have to remove the following items:

  • Shoes
  • 3-1-1 compliant bag from carry-on
  • Laptop from bag
  • Light outerwear/jacket
  • Belt

If you haven’t experienced TSA Pre✓™ be sure to find out how to participate and don’t forget to check for updates as other airlines implement the notification feature. 

TSA Blog Team  

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

TSA Travel Tips Tuesday – Have You Heard About TSA’s New Passenger Support Specialists?

More than 3,000 TSA officers have volunteered to represent TSA in a new collateral role as a Passenger Support Specialist (PSS).

PSS’s are Transportation Security Officers, Lead TSOs and Supervisors who have volunteered to take on the responsibility of assisting passengers who may need a little help at the checkpoint. They receive additional training involving scenarios such as resolving traveler-related screening concerns and assisting travelers with disabilities and medical conditions.

So here’s the travel tip: If you need assistance, or you’re concerned about your screening, you can request a PSS and they’ll help you with whatever issue it is you might be having. The goal is to have a PSS in the vicinity of the checkpoint to provide assistance and resolve concerns so you can get through the checkpoint and make it to your gate.

Passengers with disabilities who would like to contact TSA ahead of their screening can also contact the TSA Cares Helpline by calling 1-855-787-2227.

TSA Cares is a helpline to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions and their families prior to arriving at the airport.  Travelers can ask questions about screening as well as what to expect at the security checkpoint. TSA Cares provides information about screening that is relevant to the traveler’s specific disability or medical condition or the traveler is referred to disability experts at TSA. Travelers may call the TSA Cares toll free number from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday – Friday, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends and holidays. 

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