You Could Soon Be Unloading A Lot More From Your Bag At Airport Security

Image courtesy of Inha Leex Hale

The Transportation Security Administration and airlines, alike, have implemented processes at airports designed to take some of the burden out of the security line — from fully automated checkpoints to hiring more screeners. Now, the TSA is working on more changes intended to make the security process more efficient — like removing food from carry-ons and using digital ID scanners. But before we can speed through the checkpoints, some unsuspecting passengers will have serve as guinea pigs. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that the TSA is testing and finalizing these new security checkpoint plans and that they could begin to affect travels as early as this fall.

Possible changes, which could include asking passengers to place food items in separate bins and digitally scanning drivers licenses and passports, are aimed at making it easier for screeners to spot suspicious or dangerous items without manually checking bags, while also moving travelers though security check points more quickly and efficiently.

Removing Items

The WSJ reports that the TSA is taking on customers’ overstuffed, cluttered bags with screening tests at smaller airports around the country. The test range from asking passengers to take out all paper from their bags to having flyers remove food or electronics larger than a cell phone from bags before they go through X-ray machines.

TSA agents are currently focusing tests on the items — like food — that can trip up baggage screeners when they show up on X-rays. The idea is to catch these items before they go through a machine. This requires the TSA to ask passengers to remove such items and place them in separate trays at the beginning of the security screening process.

By removing items like chocolate that may show up as a dense blob on the X-ray machines, the TSA is hoping to decrease the chance that bags will have to be manually checked.

From The Beginning

Another change the TSA plans to begin testing next month at Washington D.C.’s Dulles Airport replaces manual checks of passengers’ identification with a digital version.

The new ID verification machines scan IDs and passports, matching the names with passenger lists provided by the airlines.

The agency tested the system with a shipment of fake IDs confiscated by customs agents. Of course, the TSA notes that if a false alarm is triggered, an actual TSA employee can still manually check the ID.

So far, TSA says the results have been mixed, as passengers are often confused by the new requests. Such was the case in Kansas City, MO, where flyers were asked to remove paper from bags, including small notebooks. Those tests were halted after just a few days, the agency tells the WSJ.

Still, officials with the agency say that they are optimistic that the pilot programs are working. However, any new procedures likely won’t begin to show up at airports until later this year, after the busy summer travel period, and aren’t expected to affect the TSA’s PreCheck lines, the WSJ reports.