TSA Issues New Holiday Update on What You Can't Carry Through Security
You may not think about this when you're packing your carry-on suitcase.
Traveling during the holidays is stressful enough without having to worry about getting flagged at airport security. Fortunately, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) makes it fairly simple to find out what you can and can't take through checkpoints when using the online "What Can I Bring?" feature. But there are certain items you might not even realize may prompt a TSA officer to pull your bag for further inspection. Read on to find out what TSA says you should avoid carrying through security this holiday season.
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TSA anticipates even more travelers at the end of 2022.
According to a Dec. 19 press release, TSA is expecting an increased number of travelers at U.S. airports—nearing those elusive "pre-pandemic levels." The agency anticipates Thursday, Dec. 22, and Friday, Dec. 30, will be the two busiest days of the season, falling in line with the uptick observed over the Thanksgiving holiday.
"During the Thanksgiving travel period, we saw the highest throughput volume since 2019, and we expect that trend to continue over the upcoming holiday travel period," TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in the release. "We are prepared for the increased volume and expect to meet our wait time standards of 30 minutes or less in standard lanes and 10 minutes or less in TSA PreCheck® lanes. However, there may be some situations where the capacity of a checkpoint is exceeded."
With that in mind, you'll want to heed TSA's new advice on getting through the security checkpoint, especially if you're transporting something special to go underneath the Christmas tree.
Bringing wrapped gifts might make things more inconvenient.
Wrapping your presents ahead of time is generally considered a proactive move, but if they're coming with you to the airport, save this step until you reach your destination. According to TSA's latest press release, travelers are asked to leave gifts unwrapped so that they can be inspected.
"Fully wrapped gifts may need to be opened if deemed necessary by a TSA officer," the release reads. That means that the time you saved wrapping your gift will have gone to waste, which can be doubly frustrating if you take extra care to crease your wrapping paper or affix those pricey bows.
Instead, pack your gifts sans wrapping paper, or opt for gift bags or gift boxes with lids, both of which can be easily opened by TSA officers. But be aware, even if you decide to put your presents in your checked luggage, they should be unwrapped there as well.
Weapons are always prohibited at checkpoints—and penalties just got steeper.
Firearms are other prohibited items that surface at security checkpoints more than TSA officers would like. You are permitted to travel with a firearm, but it can't be brought through security (even with a concealed weapon permit), TSA confirmed in its latest press release. Guns must be packed properly in a hard-sided case, declared to the airline you're flying at check-in, and transported in checked luggage.
This is particularly important, as TSA has already broken the record for the number of guns caught at security checkpoints this year. As of Dec. 16, approximately 6,301 guns had been stopped, over 88 percent of which were loaded.
To address and reduce the threat, TSA recently upped the penalty for a firearms violation, which can now go as high as $14,950. The fine is determined "based on the circumstances of each case," the agency said, but either way, you don't want to end up slapped with such an expense or lose your TSA PreCheck eligibility.
The agency also prohibits razors, knives, explosives, flammables, and anything that could look or sound like a weapon—including a replica weapon or Christmas crackers—at checkpoints.
There are several ways to contact TSA.
Human error does occur, and there are instances where travelers pack a seemingly innocent yet prohibited item. However, it's worth it pack with extra caution.
If you're questioning an item and can't find it when using the searchable What Can I Bring? feature, you can also ask TSA officers directly. In the Dec. 19 release, the agency announced that you can now send a text to AskTSA (275-872) to ask questions about airport security screening procedures. A virtual assistant is online all day every day, and the line is staffed between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).
The latest offering is on top of existing options, where you can pose questions and comments to @AskTSA on Twitter or through Facebook Messenger. If you prefer to talk on the phone, call the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673 between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends and holidays.