The TSA Just Announced This New Airport Security Requirement

The next time you fly, you'll have to follow this one new rule at airports.

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Travel has plummeted to an all-time low thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders. However, as some lockdowns are lifted, more people are beginning to venture out. On June 25, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened 623,624 passengers, the highest number since March 19 (though still a fraction of the 2.7 million on the same day last year). During this slow period, airports and airlines have developed extensive health and safety protocols, such as mandatory face masks and empty middle seats in plane cabins to help with social distancing. But one such change may surprise you: The TSA will now require travelers to separate snacks in clear plastic bags and put them in bins when going through security checkpoints.

Not only will this measure make the screening process faster, but it'll also make it safer. TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that food items are organic, as are some materials used to make explosives, which is why snacks can trigger an alarm on the X-ray machine. If this red flag happens, a TSA agent will need to sort through your bag, thus holding up the queue and making it difficult to social distance.

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Though frequent flyers with TSA PreCheck are exempt from the new rule, the agency still suggests that everyone consolidate to-go meals in plastic bags as a precaution. Farbstein advises preparing and packing the food at home before leaving for the airport to reduce cross-contamination. This video from the TSA shows the procedure:

The TSA has implemented other strategies to keep passengers and airport employees safe, too. There will be social distancing markers in security lines—or various expedited lines when larger crowds are a factor—and people will have to scan their boarding passes themselves to avoid TSA officers having to touch their ticket or phone. While the 3.4-ounce liquid law is still in place, the TSA has permitted each individual to bring one hand sanitizer bottle up to 12 ounces on planes to keep clean amid COVID-19.

"In the interest of TSA frontline workers and traveler health, TSA is committed to making prudent changes to our screening processes to limit physical contact and increase physical distance as much as possible," TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement. "We continue to evaluate our security measures with an eye towards making smart, timely decisions benefiting health and safety, as well as the traveler experience." And for more ways airports will change, check out the 7 Things You May Never See in Airports Ever Again.

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