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The TSA Just Made This Major Change to Airport Security, Starting Now

The next time you board a flight, it could feel very different.

There's nothing quite like the excitement that comes with booking a new trip or getaway. But before you can travel and arrive at your destination, you still must go through the same pre-flight rituals as other passengers at the airport, including waiting in long security lines. In some cases, this can mean unexpected delays, especially now that travelers are taking to the skies again at pre-pandemic levels, even as the travel industry still struggles with staffing shortages. But because of a significant change the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) just implemented, your next pre-flight experience could feel quite different. Read on to see what won't be the same the next time you jet off.

READ THIS NEXT: If You're Offered This at the Airport, Just Say No, Experts Warn.

The TSA recently issued a major warning to travelers.

man with luggage walking through airport
Kaspars Grinvalds / Shutterstock

After more than two years of challenges created by COVID-19, the airline industry is facing a new set of issues as airports begin to fill back up. In a June 25 tweet, TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein explained that passenger loads were starting to return to pre-pandemic levels. Citing TSA throughput data, she wrote that 2,454,781 people were screened at security checkpoints across the U.S. on June 24, marking the highest point since Feb. 11, 2020, when the agency screened 2,507,588 travelers.

Because of the revived crowd sizes, Farbstein warned travelers: "Get to the airport early, it's busy!" But while officials and airlines are still wrangling with how to staff back up and ease travel woes, the TSA also just announced a major change to the security screening process that could help cut down on your time spent waiting at the airport.

The TSA has significantly changed the airport security process thanks to new technology.

Man in airport line

Even for organized travelers, passing through a security checkpoint can be a confusing and disorienting experience as you fumble through belongings and search for your necessary documents. But now, the TSA has started to roll out new equipment, known as a credential authentication technology (CAT) scanner, which uses a personal ID to match each traveler to their flight information. Because of this change, passengers will no longer have to show TSA agents their boarding pass when going through security, Conde Nast Traveler reports.

According to the agency, the machines will save time at checkpoints by eliminating the need to check for boarding pass fraud and simplifying identity authentication by scanning a photo ID. "There is no need for a boarding pass at this point since the Secure Flight database contains the names and flight details for people ticketed to travel in the next 24 hours," Lorie Dankers, a TSA spokesperson, told CN Traveler in an email.

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The agency has already started rolling out the new machines at airports across the U.S.

A family going through security at an airport

If you're traveling soon, you may already notice some of the latest changes. The agency says that it's already installed 1,621 CAT scanners across 176 airports of all sizes, CN Traveler reports. This growing list includes international hubs such as Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and New York John F. Kennedy Airport to smaller regional airports like Jackson Hole Airport and Palm Springs Airport.

The new machines will also accept more than a dozen types of IDs, including driver's licenses, U.S. passports and passport cards, Trusted Traveler cards issued for those enrolled in Global Entry, state-issued ID cards, international documents such as foreign passports, and more.

You can't fully ditch your boarding pass just yet, however.

Phone Open to a Flight Check In Screen

But the latest changes don't mean you should entirely ditch your travel documents. "CAT does not eliminate the requirement for passengers to check-in with their airline. Passengers still need their boarding pass to show the airline representative at their gate before boarding their flight," the TSA writes on its website.

However, other changes are now rolling out that could also reduce your time in a security line. Recently, Apple began allowing users in some states to add their state ID to their digital wallet on their iPhone. Passengers who have it installed on their devices will be able to tap their phone to confirm their identity by having their picture taken to make sure it matches, all without having to pull out a physical card or hand the phone over to the agent, The Points Guy reports. So far, Maryland and Arizona are the only two states to roll out the new feature, with 11 more states and territories slated to be added to the list in the coming months.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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