TSA Federal Security Directors Share Tips for Flying During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Federal Security Directors are sharing some tips for travelers as they arrive at airport security checkpoints to help them stay healthy and stay secure as they travel during the pandemic.

Federal Security Directors are the top TSA officials at an airport or for multiple airports in a specific state and they know what best practices can help travelers prevent the spread of COVID-19 during their trip. Here are travel tips from 12 Federal Security Directors.

Tip 1: Wash your hands From John Bambury, Federal Security Director for John F. Kennedy International Airport

Wash your hands often and bring your hand sanitizer and wipes with you. TSA is currently allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger, in carry-on bags until further notice.

Since these containers exceed the standard 3.4-ounce allowance typically permitted through a checkpoint, they will need to be screened separately. This will add some time to the checkpoint screening experience. Please keep in mind that all other liquids, gels and aerosols brought to a checkpoint continue to be limited to 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters carried in a one quart-size bag. Bring your wipes along with you too.

Travelers are permitted to bring individually-packaged alcohol or anti-bacterial wipes in carry-on or checked luggage. Jumbo containers of hand wipes are also allowed in carry-on or checked luggage.

Tip 2: Wear a mask From Andrea R. Mishoe, Federal Security Director for Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport

TSA officers are wearing masks and we ask travelers to please wear one as well to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Travelers are allowed and encouraged to wear masks during the security screening process, however, a TSA officer may ask the traveler to adjust the mask to visually confirm their identity during the travel document checking process or if their mask triggers an alarm during the screening process.

If a traveler who is not wearing a mask triggers an alarm at a checkpoint and requires a pat-down to resolve the alarm, TSA will offer that traveler a mask. Per the CDC, masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is why masks are worn by TSA officers and why so many airports mandate the wearing of masks in their terminals.

Tip 3: Practice social distancing From Gerardo Spero, Federal Security Director for Philadelphia International Airport

Maintain proper social distancing. Procedures to increase social distancing and reduce direct contact between TSA officers and the traveling public have been implemented whenever possible.

Passengers can do their part by remembering to practice social distancing throughout their security experience—in the queue, through the screening process, while collecting their items from bins and after going through the checkpoint. TSA and airports have posted signs and floor decals to help remind travelers of the importance of doing so.

Tip 4: Remove items from pockets From Scott T. Johnson, Federal Security Director for Ronald Reagan Washington National and Washington Dulles International Airports

As is common practice, travelers need to remove items from their pockets prior to going through a checkpoint scanner. During the pandemic, it’s a good idea to place items from your pockets into your carry-on bag instead of into a bin. This reduces touchpoints, an important precaution to take during the pandemic.

Tip 5: Put food items in clear plastic bags From John C. Allen, Federal Security Director for all airports in West Virginia

If you plan to travel with food, it’s a best practice to pack your food items in a clear plastic bag and place that clear plastic bag into your carry-on bag.

When you get to the checkpoint, remove the clear bag containing your food and place that bag into the bin to reduce the opportunity for cross-contamination. Why remove your food at all? Because food items often trigger an alarm, so instead of a TSA officer needing to open a carry-on bag to check on what triggered the alarm, removing the food reduces the likelihood of a carry-on bag needing to be searched.

Tip 6: Expired license is OK From John Bright, Federal Security Director for all airports in Iowa

If you want to use your driver’s license as your government issued ID at an airport checkpoint and if your license expired, don’t panic. If your driver's license or state-issued ID expired and you are unable to renew it at your state driver’s license agency, you can still use it as acceptable identification at the checkpoint.

TSA will accept expired driver’s licenses or state-issued ID one year after expiration, although some additional ID may be required along with additional screening. When getting your license renewed, please consider getting a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license. The new deadline for enforcement of REAL ID is October 1, 2021.

Tip 7: Pack smart From Chuck Burke, Federal Security Director for Richmond International Airport and all Virginia airports south of Richmond

One of the most important things passengers can do to reduce contact at a checkpoint is to pack smart. It’s important to remember that prohibited items are still, well, prohibited. Travelers need to know what is in their carry-on bags and make sure there are no prohibited items inside before arriving at the checkpoint.

If not, and their carry-on item triggers an alarm, passengers may be directed to exit the checkpoint, remove the prohibited item and return to the start of the checkpoint to rerun their bag through the X-ray machine.

Tip 8: Enroll in TSA PreCheck™ From Thomas Carter, Federal Security Director for all airports in New Jersey

Enroll in TSA PreCheck™. TSA PreCheck™ members continue to be eligible for expedited screening procedures, meaning they do not have to remove their shoes, belts or light jackets.

They can also leave their laptops, other electronics, 3-1-1 bags or food items in their carry-on bags, thus reducing touchpoints along the way. During the pandemic, now more than ever, TSA PreCheck™ is worth the investment.

Tip 9: Prepare before you arrive From Karen Keys-Turner, Federal Security Director for all airports in Pennsylvania west of Philadelphia

TSA also has a special coronavirus page on its web site that is helpful to review before heading to the airport. While you’re online, download the free myTSA app to your cell phone. It provides 24/7 access to the most frequently requested airport security information on any mobile device.

Doing so can save you time and money with helpful tips for security, including a searchable database of items that can and can’t go in checked or carry-on bags.

Tip 10: Everything is cleaner From Michael Fowler, Federal Security Director for all airports in Nebraska

TSA has issued guidance to frontline employees to conduct routine cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces and security screening equipment at the TSA checkpoint. Many airport authorities are also performing additional cleaning of security checkpoints and bins.

Passengers who are hesitant to place their items into a bin out of concern for cross-contamination can consider bringing along a plastic kitchen trash bag to place in the bottom of the bin to use as a liner before divesting their belongings on top of it.

Tip 11: Scan your boarding pass From Robert Duffy, Federal Security Director for LaGuardia Airport

We’re looking to reduce touchpoints along the way, so now we invite passengers to scan their own boarding pass—paper or electronic—then hold it up to the TSA officer to visually inspect it. Doing so reduces a touch-point.

Tip 12: Follow expert guidance From Bart R. Johnson, Federal Security Director for all Upstate New York airports

Travelers are reminded to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel guidance as well as local and state advisories regarding COVID-19. This is fairly simple. If you recently tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, are not feeling well, have recently been exposed to a person with COVID-19 or are running a fever, please postpone your trip and rebook your flight for another time when you are feeling healthy.

Many airlines have eliminated rebooking fees, making it much more convenient to ensure you can travel when you are healthy. When you’re feeling better, we’ll be happy to see you. We want you to stay healthy and stay secure.

For more helpful information about TSA’s security screening process during the pandemic, visit the TSA Website.