“Well, at least it can’t get any worse.”
These days, that seems to be the mantra for most air travelers just before the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) enacts some new program that does just that. In an effort to keep us safe — or at least provide some semblance of the illusion of safety — the agency is further clamping down at airport security checkpoints around the U.S. Here’s what you need to know about — and how to prepare for — the new TSA screening.
Think about the good ol’ days (read: yesterday) when you were only required to remove your laptop and liquids from your carry-on baggage. No more. The TSA now requires air travelers to remove not just laptops, but all electronics larger than a cell phone, which must be placed in a bin with nothing on top or below them. This essentially means that passenger will be required to remove anything with a battery for extra screening. The previous method often required two or three bins per person to accommodate the bevy of laptops, tablets, and liquids, even for non-tech-heads. The new method adds things like digital cameras, Bluetooth speakers, Kindles, spare batteries, and a whole lot more. Just pray you don’t get stuck behind a travel photographer.
The TSA has stated that disrupting commercial aviation remains a clear target for terrorists. They continue to seek new and innovative ways to accomplish that goal, including smuggling explosive devices into smaller and smaller electronics. The ubiquity of mobile technology has created a real problem for the TSA who often struggle to adequately screen baggage with so much hardware clutter crammed into each carry-on bag.
After an 18-month trial run, the new security measures are slowly rolling out in all U.S. airports; New York was added to the growing list in October. The TSA is recommending travelers arrive at least 90 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time for domestic flights. Bank on three hours or more for international departures. For many, the only solution is to be prepared and organized before you get to the airport and to be very, very patient once there.
If you’re a frequent traveler, it’s also worth looking into one of these three trusted traveler programs. Bottom line: A frequent domestic-only flyer should opt for TSA Precheck ($85 for five years). International travelers should go for Global Entry ($100 for five years), which includes all the benefits of TSA Precheck and more.
Once you finally make it through airport security, treat yourself to this travel playlist: