TSA Agents Will No Longer Touch Your Boarding Pass

Filed Under: Security/TSA

While COVID-19 is terrible news in just about every way, as a somewhat socially awkward introvert, there are some changes to the way we interact that I appreciate.

For example, when I see people I know there’s no longer the expectation of touching. I don’t have to decide whether it’s someone I’m supposed to shake hands with, hug, hug and give a kiss on each cheek to (I live in Miami, this is basically Latin America), or have some sort of choreographed bro-handshake with.

Along those lines, the TSA has today announced some updated screening guidelines, including the elimination of one of the silliest practices of the TSA.

TSA’s updated security procedures

With Memorial Day coming up and the summer travel season kicking off, the TSA is evolving some procedures due to COVID-19. While demand is obviously still way down, we’ve seen an increased number of travelers as the weeks have gone by.

These updated guidelines follow an announcement a couple of weeks ago that TSA agents will have to start wearing masks, which seems long overdue. Here are some of the changes you can expect, in no particular order:

TSA agents will no longer touch your boarding passes

Instead of handing TSA agents your boarding pass, travelers will now place their boarding passes (whether paper or electronic) directly on the boarding pass reader themselves.

Once that’s complete, passengers should hold their boarding pass towards the TSA officer to allow them to visually inspect it.

This is great news far beyond reducing the potential for cross contamination:

  • TSA agents will no longer endlessly scribble on your boarding pass; some agents seems to make a game of how much ink they could waste on any given boarding pass
  • This never made much sense to me, since it’s not like they scribble on your phone if you have a mobile boarding pass
  • I’ve always assumed this was done primarily because the agents are bored just checking boarding passes all day, and it’s a nice way to pass the time, and maybe allows them to focus a bit on verifying that details are accurate

So that will no longer happen… yay!

Food will have to be separated for screening

Any carry-on food items should be placed in clear plastic bags and directly into a bin. Food items often trigger alarms during the screening process, and separating the food from the carry-on bag lessens the likelihood that you’ll need secondary screening, and if you do get secondary screening, it reduces the risk your carry-on will need to be opened.

Social distancing & face masks

While there’s nothing really new here, the TSA also provides reminders of the following:

  • Practice social distancing at security checkpoints, and keep an eye on visual reminders of appropriate spacing on checkpoint floors
  • The TSA “encourages” travelers to wear face protection at security checkpoints, though it’s not required; passengers who do wear masks may need to adjust them during the screening process so that TSA agents can look at them

Bottom line

The TSA is updating a couple of policies, as they expect to see an uptick in travelers. The TSA is asking passengers to separate food from bags during the screening process, and perhaps most exciting is that TSA agents will no longer touch your boarding pass, which also means there will be no more scribbling.

  1. We flew on three flights in the last week and the TSA never asked for our boarding pass. They just scanned our ID. We had to ask them about Precheck and then they scanned it at a reader on the X-ray machine to verify precheck. This was in ATL and MCO.

  2. Yet they still ask for your ID. Not asking for your boarding pass does absolutely nothing to keep either yourself or themselves safe from COVID-19 as long as they touch your other stuff.

  3. When I flew out of SEA last week, it seemed like TSA had a few additional initiatives in place (perhaps trialing?).

    In addition to wearing masks, there were plexiglass screens up, with strategically places openings to take your ID. Not too surprising, but have not seen it called out.

    The TSA agent actually did not want to see my boarding pass at all. After taking my driver’s license and scanning it, he was able to see my boarding pass. I know with CLEAR, I never have to show my Delta boarding pass, though this is the first time I have seen this with TSA (and I was flying AS).

    Additionally, they had removed all of the large bins at Precheck security. While they are not used nearly as much at Precheck, this is the first time I have seen them completely removed. I guess this removes another surface to touch.

  4. I wish they have clorox wipes available so passengers can clean them themselves. When I do travel again I plan to bring my own sanitizing wipes.

  5. Who doesnt use their phone to scan their boarding pass anyways? I havent handed them my boarding pass in four years. I dont think i have had a paper pass in at least 3 years.

  6. Back in early March when this was hitting the fan, I purchased last bottle on shelf of Clorox wipes at Walgreens / Duane Reade in NYC. I was worried that it was a 9.5oz container in my carry-on, but TSA was super cool and simply wanted to see it, scan it, and then they gave it back to me.

  7. But they still handle your ID which may be just as unsanitary as a boarding pass. They could just skip the whole ID/BP check altogether, as this does nothing to enhance security. Idiots.

  8. There are many people saying what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense. They sound like idiots. All procedures are taken for security reasons. Everyone talks so bad about TSA but I bet you if they dropped the ball and inadvertently allowed an explosive to get on the plane, they very people that have so much bad things to say about them, would be THE FIRST one to write congress and complain. I for one feel that TSA has done a remarkable job and I would rather be safe than sorry. So to the people sounding off on TSA, SHUT UP!! you sound like bumbling idiots.

  9. Wow life is too short to complain about scribbling on your boarding pass. Its standard operating procedures. Which may vary at certain airports. Officers are looking for the ssss. Really you have to complain. Amid ppl loosing jobs , homes, food shortages. Stop flying if it ruins your day.

  10. @ Brian, nothing wrong with constructive criticism. It does not make sense to handle some persona documents and not others and think things are improved. Even with gloves on unless they change after every documents is examined is never going to happen. I cant remember now why the ID check is still considered so very important.

  11. In regards to paper boarding passes:
    I usually use my phone as well, BUT in MSP (where i fly in/out every other week) if you go through the Sky Priority security lane you can only be screened as a PreCheck if you have a paper boarding pass. If you have it on your phone you have to take off your shoes, take the laptop out etc.

  12. Why do they still have to visually inspect a boarding pass? Isn’t checking the validity and authenticity of a boarding pass the purpose of the scanners? I’m confused. Guess, TSA agents somehow need to justify their existence.

  13. The border force have to handle the passport to check and stamp you still have fingerprints scan all points which non poris serfice so why can’t TSA handle boring card why not just have a qr coad

  14. As someone who has worn cloth masks for over a year before this started, I’ve had no issues with TSA and wearing it. They ask me to pull it down briefly to verify I match my ID and that’s it. Doesn’t even set off the detectors. And note if they have to handle anything inside your bag, you can ask them to change gloves first; I have medical equipment that needs secondary screening and do this all the time.

  15. I’m sure terrorists share same sentiment to not be touched. If you think we are forever safe, watch the news.

  16. Very good. But when will they learn to introduce the words “please and thank-you” to their vocabulary?

  17. Without getting into the somehow now-political issue of people wearing face masks, touching a used mask is one of the worst things you can do for contaminating other people!

    In two studies I’ve read, the amount of virus found on the outside of masks of positive people was dramatically higher than inside the mask. So you’re going to have the TSA insist people temporarily remove/adjust their masks, contaminating their hands with high concentrations of the virus, then touching surfaces other people will have to touch at the checkpoints. Lovely.

    @Brian: Guess you work for the TSA and this post hurt your feelings?

    My line of work brings me into government buildings of various agencies and varying levels of clearances needed, and various security precautions needed including SCIFs.

    In my interactions with security personnel at these facilities, I’ve never:
    a) had to give up my water bottle
    b) been groped/patted down
    c) been ‘randomly’ selected for additional screening
    d) had orders barked/yelled at me
    e) had security personnel attempt to steal items from my bags
    f) had to go through a nude-o-scope
    g) had security personnel make up rules as they go along

    …yet I’ve had every one of those happen with the TSA… and the governmental facilities I’ve been in have far more significance to national security than an flight from Charlotte to Tulsa.

    By the TSA’s *own tests*, their screeners only have a 5-20% pass rate. I don’t know which schools you attended, but that’s not even close to a passing grade at anywhere I have been.

    Until we scrap the TSA and its security theater, we remain sitting ducks.

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