A woman gets a pat-down from a TSA agent at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin, Texas.Photo: AP
A woman gets a pat-down from a TSA agent at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin, Texas.Photo: AP

This is what TSA wants you to know about holiday travel

By The Washington Post Time of article published Dec 30, 2020

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By Natalie B. Compton

With the holiday season here, many travellers are grappling with the question of whether to carry on with their scheduled travel plans.

For those who choose to travel for the holidays by plane, we spoke with Transportation Security Administration spokesperson Lisa Farbstein about ways to get through the airport as safe as possible this season.

This is what she says:

Get to the airport early

Earlier in the year, photos of empty airports and flights went viral while travel numbers reached historic lows. But millions of people are flying again, and there is no guarantee you' will have a quiet travel day over the holidays, especially given recent travel behaviour.

"We saw a bump this year the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and in a week we might see another," Farbstein says. "We saw the last three days in a row have been over a million passengers [each day] for three consecutive days. That's the first time that's happened since the pandemic."

Farbstein says travellers need to arrive at the airport early.

And to keep checkpoint lines moving, get to the airport not only early, but also prepared. That means wearing a face mask (Farbstein recommends bringing a backup), having your photo ID ready and following liquid rules for your carry-on items.

Be prepared at security

Airports are cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched checkpoint surfaces more often during the pandemic. Airport staff are supposed to wear masks and gloves at checkpoints and change those gloves after each pat-down

Still, it's better to avoid necessary contact and more time in security, and you should pack carefully to ensure that.

Ensure that you find out what should and shouldn't be in your bag before your journey.

Don't get tripped up with holiday food

If you're travelling with food for holiday celebrations, know that "most food items might need some extra screening," Farbstein says. "That does not mean anyone's going to eat your food, nobody's really wanting to touch your food . . . but they'll probably do a swab of the container," Farbstein says one of the most commonly confiscated items at TSA checkpoints is peanut butter, which is not considered a solid since it can be spread. The agency's golden rule is that if you can spray it, spread it, pump it or pour it, it should go in your checked bag.

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