New TSA Screening Restrictions On Electronic Devices

Filed Under: Security/TSA

The TSA and DHS have been introducing new security screening measures for flights, given the (apparent) increased risk to aviation security, especially as it concerns explosives. While we’ve seen the TSA test some new screening practices on domestic flights, a majority of the changes so far have come in the form of added security on international flights bound for the US. That’s in spite of the fact that the TSA continues to miss 95% of prohibited items that are brought through checkpoints in tests.

Today it was announced that the TSA will be enhancing security screening for domestic flights as well, which will be implemented nationwide in the coming weeks and months. Specifically, the TSA will ask travelers to remove all electronics larger than cell phones from their carry-on bags and place them in a bin with nothing on top of below, to get a clearer X-ray image. In other words, all electronics larger than cell phones will be treated the same way that laptops are treated right now. This would include cameras, e-readers, noise canceling headphones, etc.

TSA employees will be stationed at the standard screening lanes to yell at passenger explain the process and help passengers with their bags. The good news is that those with access to TSA Pre-Check lanes are excluded from this — this only applies to regular screening lanes.

There’s not actually a change to what’s allowed past checkpoints, but rather just to how it’s being screened. The new screening procedures are already in place at the following 10 airports, and will expand to other airports soon:

  • Boise Airport (BOI)
  • Colorado Springs Airport (COS)
  • Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
  • Logan International Airport (BOS)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport (LBB)
  • Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU)
  • McCarran International Airport (LAS)
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

I imagine we’re going to see a lot more new measures beyond this. Whether or not this is actually effective, though, is a whole different story…

(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)

  1. They really try hard to keep their job. They weren’t educated. They never caught terrorist. They did sexual harrasment. They missed their target up to 95%. They making up excuses.

    Why do this institution exist in a first place? Its your tax money being used to pay and fund these people!!!

  2. I’ll put the over/under at a 1.5 hour wait when this is implemented. Which side are you taking?

  3. “I imagine we’re going to see a lot more new measures beyond this.”

    Yes, the frightened children need to be assured that there are more things that will be missed 95%+ of the time.

    “Whether or not this is actually effective, though, is a whole different story…”

    Well…ummm…’ll be proven to be effective 0.00000000001% of the time, declared a success and removed in several years time at which point we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief.

  4. Bad news – was in Pre line last night at SFO and told to take electronics out. Was given a printed card that said the same. Ugh.

  5. After traveling in Europe a lot in the last 3 months I can say that TSA is very light in terms of how much PITA they are. In Europe they not only make you take all electronics out but also open them and show they can be turned on. Even my asthma inhaler that I forgot it was liquid under pressure was a big deal for them. I never had any issues with that in the US.

  6. Don’t know where you are traveling in Europe, but I haven’t been asked to turn on anything in years (United 3M flyer and Virgin Gold 10 years in a row).

  7. You win TSA. Just submitted my Nexus application so I can get TSA pre-check. The hassle factor of these (largely ineffective) security measures are getting ridiculous.

    I wonder when regular travellers will start having to do a dance and walk through security with a handstand.

  8. In Greece we do it all the time domestically. Here we have no issues. Now, I can see why you’d be upset there. Your 2-hour queues get 5-hour, and 9/10 bombs still pass through.

  9. Wait, I thought that had been the case for a while. When I don’t have the Pre-Check sign on my boarding pass, they always ask me to place the iPad and laptop on the bin.

  10. Just returned from Doha, Qatar where the electronics ban has been removed, but new screening procedures are in place. After going though the typical body metal detector and luggage scan after immigration, there are new procedures for getting into the holding pen at the gate. All electronics had to be removed and were swabbed for explosive residue. They were then sealed in plastic and handed back to passengers who then queued up to have the body scan and luggage scan again. Your boarding pass had to be in the bin with your luggage, and they had to verify it was you before they released your luggage to you (yes, they had just verified my passport not 10 feet earlier in the line). Then we could pass into the holding pen, where you could rip open your electronics bag. So a flight that regularly departs 30 minutes late will now easily be an hour late, and the unpack, repack, hurry up and pick your stuff, show me your passport and boarding pass again routine will only add to the frustration, er love of travel.

  11. @ Dani — Indeed, for laptops and full size iPads. However, mini-iPads and other electronics haven’t had to go in bins.

  12. Not a huge difference, I thought we had to take out tablets and such as it is anyways? The cameras/headphones/etc are new though. Although I’ve had to do that in Germany before.

  13. This happened to me a couple weeks ago at BOS. It was later at night, and there were no pre-check lanes. Didn’t know about this rule, and was traveling with approximately 15 tablets in my carry-on (for work). Spent about 20 minutes as the TSA officier individually swabbed each of the tablets and tested each swab. Was running late for my flight due to a tight connection, so it was particularly irritating.

  14. So, the only difference is minipads now?
    Note sometimes pre-check lanes are not active and you get “expedited screening” instead which requires laptops out, presumably everything now.

  15. Pre-check may be included, at least occasionally. Just went through in PDX they removed my laptop (after my carry-on had been scanned), put it in a bin and re-scanned it and the carry-on. Happened to at least two others that I saw. Only added about 5 minutes, but is still a little aggravating.

  16. @JD: I was at Athens airport 3 days ago and their security check asked me to open my kids iPad covers and show they were ON, made me turn my work laptop and open the lens cover or my DSLR camera. Huge PITA. However, London is the worst regarding liquids and gels, they found an old lip balm lost for years in my travel backpack that I didn’t even know it was there.

  17. I’ve been asked to take out my iPad. Trouble is I don’t have an iPad.

    I do have an Android tablet, mind you.

  18. @schar, Lucky mentioned noise-canceling headphones which often are battery-powered. And those headphones are clearly electronic devices, aren’t they? Nothing stupid about that.

    So it is like EU-lite? In Europe we have to take all electronics out of our bags and put them in bins separately. So even phones that are … well … not larger than phones 😉 Or cords.

    In Europe this has been practice for around three years now.

    My next flight won’t be before October. Hopefully we (my +1 and I) will get PreCheck again. Since TSA’s first announcement a few years ago that access to complimentary PreCheck will be restricted we are 100%.

  19. Interesting to see that TSA Precheck is supposedely exempt. Was at LAS last Friday on a flight to DFW with TSA Precheck and was asked to remove any electronics from my bag bigger than a cellphone. Everyone in the line was pretty taken aback. Don’t know if it was agent that didn’t know procedure or just one of those “random screening” deals.

  20. In years gone by I laughed at the idea of having to turn on a device to show it was not dangerous. Now it sounds like that provision is back. Security theater of the absurd. Do we really think that someone who is sophisticated enough to put a weapon in a laptop’s innards isn’t smart enough to figure out how to allow the damn thing to turn on. When did “on/off” become a proxy for “dangerous”?

  21. Utterly STUPID. Time to shut down TSA. All they do is make things harder for the regular folks whilst missing anything a terrorist would actually do or bring with them. Besides, the terrorists can blow up a plane from the airport viewing areas with an RPG, without ever setting foot in a terminal.

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