BIRMINGHAM – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is ready for the continued surge in spring break travelers. Acrylic barriers and upgraded technology now reduce or eliminate physical contact between passengers and TSA staff.
The TSA offers serious tips for navigating the airport checkpoint. The first is to leave your gun at home or declare it to the airline and place it in a locked, hard-sided case in your checked baggage! While the number of passengers is substantially lower than during a pre-pandemic spring break season, the number of passengers bringing guns to the checkpoints at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) and Huntsville International Airport (HSV) have exceeded the numbers for the similar period last year: nine year-to-date at BHM, compared to six at BHM in early 2020 and four so far this year at HSV compared to three last year during the same period. TSA officers have also intercepted two guns so far in 2021 at Mobile Regional Airport (MOB.)
“We are focused on the health and safety of our workforce and the traveling public,” said Gail Linkins, Federal Security Director with the Transportation Security Administration for the State of Alabama, noting that the TSA has installed acrylic barriers to separate passengers and TSA officers at strategic locations in the checkpoints across the state.
The airports in Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile each have a lane with the latest checkpoint technology: CT 300s. “The computed tomography equipment uses complex algorithms to search for threats and allows our TSA officers to rotate the images, thereby reducing the need to open bags and thus reducing touchpoints,” said Linkins, noting that passengers screened in the lanes with this new equipment do not need to remove their 3-1-1 bag or their electronics.
Birmingham is the first airport in Alabama to receive the latest credential authentication technology, which also allows for fewer touch points. Passengers are separated from our officers by acrylic barriers and then only need to pass to them their ID or passport. Boarding passes are not needed at the checkpoint in the three lanes with this technology. The equipment verifies their identify and confirms that they are flying that day.”
Face masks for both employees and passengers are required throughout all domestic transportation modes, including airport security screening checkpoints and throughout the airport. Since the implementation of the federal face mask mandate for travelers on Feb 2, masks are required regardless of local or state easing of restrictions. Those who refuse to wear a mask face fines from the TSA and from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) if the infraction occurs while flying. The TSA continues to work closely with all transportation partners to enable the highest security standards within a travel environment that helps reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Those flying to destinations for spring break should follow these six tips for getting through the TSA checkpoint as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Tip 1: Wear a face mask. You must. The federal requirement supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Emergency Order mandating face masks be worn on all public conveyances and at stations, ports, or similar transportation hubs regardless of state and local laws.
Tip 2: Leave prohibited items at home. To reduce the likelihood of physical contact with TSA officers at the checkpoint, verify if items are prohibited by using the “What Can I Bring?” page on TSA.gov.
Tip 3: Prepare for the security checkpoint. Have a valid ID card readily available. Follow the liquids rule of 3.4 ounces or less, with the exception of hand sanitizer, which has a temporary 12-ounce limit in carry-on baggage.
Tip 4: No guns at checkpoints ever. Airline passengers can fly with firearms only in checked baggage. All firearms must be properly packed and declared at check-in. Contact your airline for additional guidance. And know what the laws are on both sides of your trip.
Tip 5: Help is always available. Get live assistance by tweeting your questions and comments to @AskTSA or via Facebook Messenger, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST and weekends/holidays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST. You can also call the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673.
Tip 6: Enroll now in TSA PreCheck®. “Travel with Ease” by enrolling in TSA PreCheck and avoid removing shoes, belts, liquids, food, laptops and light jackets. Most new enrollees receive a known traveler number within five days, and membership lasts for five years.
TSA is committed to supporting a healthy and secure environment for our employees, airport personnel and airline passengers. For additional information about TSA procedures during COVID-19 as part of our “Stay Healthy. Stay Secure” campaign, visit tsa.gov/coronavirus.