As exciting as it may be to travel to the land of Liberty, The United States of America often loses its brownie points when it comes to clearing airport security. With heaps of rigid procedures and all the arbitrary detention and deportation stories that float around the internet, it is essential to understand the sensitivity of the nation towards security.
Although the security practices seem strict, none of them are out-of-the-blue or as daunting as most people make it sound. Every country has their own set of safety measures, and as a traveler, it is imperative for you to do a little homework to make sure you’re in alignment with them. When it comes to TSA, we recommend you to put away your apprehension and read on.
1. What is TSA?
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is an agency that functions under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It has been designed as an authority who monitors the security procedures of every traveller across the globe entering the United States of America. The bitter aftertaste of the 9/11 terror attacks, led to the emergence of the TSA as a federal body responsible for all the security measures undertaken mainly at airports, for all commercial airline passengers and luggage.
2. What is the TSA screening process like?
The TSA screening process is long and stringent, as it involves multiple processes at the airport security checkpoint. You will be required to present a valid ID proof, through which the officials may verify your identity against the names on the No Fly List, which is a list of over 20,000 names of people barred from boarding any commercial flights.
The officials at any U.S. airport are authorised to ask you questions pertaining to you, your travel details, itinerary, purpose and so on.
The screening process involves the use of high-end metal detectors to screen passengers for any unlawful metallic objects, weapons or explosives. Passengers may opt out this Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) screening process and choose a physical check, also known as a “pat-down”. A pat-down is frisking of the entire body, including intimate areas, conducted by the same gender officer. The new airport pat-down replaces the earlier procedure of officials choosing between 5 different kinds of pat-downs, by standardizing this practice. Prior to this, officials used the back of their hands while frisking intimate body parts. The new pat-down now includes the use of the front of their hands for checking on certain limited occasions. Travelers have the option of requesting a pat-down in privacy or presence of a companion.
Your children will not be separated from you during the screening process. You may also carry your infants in your arms while walking through the metal detector.
In case your boarding pass is marked for enhanced screening, you may have to undergo both the procedures, i.e., AIT and Pat-down.
3. What is the TSA luggage screening process?
The TSA conducts a screening procedure for all your baggage, as soon as you enter the security checkpoint at the airport. All your luggage will be scanned for explosives, weapons, sharp objects, liquids and gels over 100ml, chemical, inflammable material, etc. Once your luggage undergoes the scanner and is given a clean chit, it will directly be transported to your respective flight or baggage claim area.
In the scenario of the TSA authority finding any suspicious item, your bags will be opened and physically checked. Thereafter, the authorities will place a notice in your bag to inform you that your bag has been inspected.
In case of lost or damaged property, you may file a claim on https://www.tsa.gov/travel/passenger-support/claims.
You will be answerable to the airport authorities for flouting any security rules or for carrying any illegal items.
To avoid the same, make sure you follow the baggage standards. https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/prohibited-items
4. What are TSA locks?
TSA locks are the only accepted locks to seal your luggage while you travel to and from USA. Under the TSA guidelines, the airport authorities have full access to your luggage, even in your absence. If your bags are sealed with any locks other than the TSA ones, they have the right to break them open.
All TSA locks across the globe have a universal master key, which enables the aviation security officials to unlock your bags. These locks are manufactured by a company named Travel Sentry, whose security system is used by multiple countries, especially the US.
5. How can I get through the TSA security faster?
Agreed, the security processes can be extremely lengthy and tiring, especially after you’ve had a long flight into the country. The procedures are inevitable, but as a flier, there are a few things you can do to hasten the process.
- Punctuality: Reach the airport well in advance to make sure there are no last minute delays, which invariably invite panic and confusion.
- 3-1-1 rule: 3oz (100ml) of liquid, gel, aerosol or paste, in a 1 quart-sized bag and 1 bag per passenger in the screening bin. This saves you and the others filed in a queue a lot of time.
- Manage your papers: The environment at the airport often makes travellers a little jittery. Systematically arrange your papers, passport, ID proof, so that you don’t lose any important documents and have everything handy whenever needed.
- Dress light: It is recommended that your attire is comfortable and you stick to the basics, with lesser pockets, preferably no need for a belt, minimal jewellery, etc., making it easier for the airport security to check you, even as you go through the metal detector.
- Laptop cases: If your travel consist of you carrying your laptop, ensure that you purchase a TSA approved case or laptop sleeve, so that you don’t have to remove your computer out for the screening process.
6. What is the TSA Pre-Check?
The TSA Pre-Check is a 5-year membership programme for $85, that gives US citizens or PR card holders the luxury to pass through the airport security checkpoints without removing their shoes, belt, jacket, etc. It is a swift and easy process to fast track your way through the security procedure.
How it works: You first have to make an online application and book an appointment at any one of the enrolment centres. The appointment includes a quick background check and fingerprinting process.
Once approved, you will receive a Known Travel Number (KTN), which can be entered while booking your flight with a Pre-Check friendly airline. They are: Aeromexico, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, American Airlines, Cape Air, Delta Air Lines, Etihad Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Seaborne Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin America and WestJet.