TSA screenings continue to be a hot topic as it seems hardly a day goes by without a fresh video appearing featuring a traumatized traveler getting a very personal pat down and inspection by airport security. Most disturbing are the pictures of toddlers being reduced to tears as they go through the screening process. It seems no one is immune from over-zealous inspections whether it be children, the elderly, or travelers with medical infirmities.
Finally the TSA is taking some positive steps to hear and acknowledge the public’s frustration as well as making adjustments to screening procedures. Travelers can vent their complaints and offer suggestions using forms available at the TSA.gov website.
Here are some important changes to TSA screening procedures, effectively immediately, that should help ease the angst of many travelers.
- Children age 12 and under may go through airport security without removing their shoes. They will be allowed to go through metal detectors and/or body scanners several times to try to clear any alarms without going through the pat-down process.
- Similarly, older travelers age 75 + may go through screening without removing their shoes, and do not have to remove light jackets. To minimize pat-downs, they also may pass through the metal detectors and/or body scanners to resolve any alarms.
- The No-Hassle Flying Act has been passed and signed into law which will allow luggage pre-cleared in approved foreign airport facilities to move through US airports without going through a second screening. This means if you are flying back to the USA with have a connecting flight, your luggage will no longer need to go through another inspection at your connecting airport. Approved facilities so far include Canada, Dublin and Shannon in Ireland, Bahamas, Bermuda and Aruba.
- The TSA has been expanding the “TSA Pre (check)” program which is now available at 30 airports across the country. Affiliated carriers include Alaska, American, Delta and United Airlines. This program allows approved travelers to move through airport security via an expedited screening lane. Enrolled travelers do not need to remove their shoes or belts, can keep computers and 3-1-1 pouches in their bags and do not have to remove light jackets. More importantly, travelers in the Global Entry program benefit from expedited clearance through passport control when re-entering the United States.To enroll in the TSA Pre program and the Global Entry program, travelers should visit the GlobalEntry.gov website and complete the application form. There is a $100 non-refundable fee for submitting a Global Entry application. If approved, your membership is good for five years. In addition to basic personal information, you will need to have a passport, birth certificate number and list of countries you have visited in the past 5 years. Following initial approval of your application, you will be required to book an appointment at an Enrollment Center for a personal interview where if approved you will be fingerprinted and photographed.
Another helpful trend is that more and more travelers are taking tablet devices on their journeys and leaving their computers at home. Unlike the requirement to remove computers from carry-on bats, tables can go right through.
Hopefully with more folks able to pass through airport security in a speedier and less traumatic fashion, it will relieve the stress for the rest of us!
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mobileedgelaptopbags/