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Travelers: New Baggage Screening Starts Jan. 1

(January 1, 2003)

Travelers will notice some changes at airports in the new year, and one of them could be longer check-in lines as federal authorities begin screening all luggage for explosives.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) plans has implemented a new policy requiring every piece of baggage be checked for explosives before being loaded onto aircraft. To fulfill the requirement, airports are using truck-sized bomb detection machines, hand-held devices, specially trained dogs, passenger-to-bag matching, and hand searches. Most of the 429 airports in the U.S. are prepared for the screening deadline. However, approximately 40 unidentified airports remain unprepared and have been given extra time to implement the new procedures. Some experts have predicted the new baggage-screening policy will cause lengthy delays at larger airports.

To help minimize delays, the TSA is asking travelers to arrive at the terminal two hours before departure. Travelers will now need a boarding pass to clear the security checkpoint. Travel itineraries no longer will be accepted. With the new screening rules, curbside baggage check-in may not be available at some airports; it will vary by location. In addition, travelers are being asked to leave their bags unlocked so they can be searched if necessary. Many airports will allow passengers to re-lock their luggage once it's been screened; however, at some airports passengers will not have access to their luggage once it goes through the screening process. In the near future, TSA will provide seals at the airport to use to secure luggage as an alternative to locking bags. Until that time, they suggest travelers purchase standard cable ties to secure bags if it has zippers. If TSA screeners open bags during the screening procedure, they will close it with a security seal. In addition, TSA will place a notice in the bag alerting the passenger that TSA screeners opened it.

Depending on the airport, expect delays as everyone gets used to this new system. Nevertheless, the TSA notes that your wait time will depend upon how you pack your bags. They offer these tips for travelers packing luggage:

  • Do not pack food or beverages because they have a tendency to produce false readings.
  • Use clear plastic bags for toiletries and personal items so they can be easily viewed. 
  • Spread books along the bottom of the suitcase rather than stacking them.
  • Pack shoes last so they are easily reached if they need to be inspected.
  • Avoid packing anything that would cause embarrassment if others saw it as luggage can be opened in a public place. 
  • Don't put film in checked bags, because screening equipment will damage it. 
  • Put scissors, pocket knives and other sharp items in checked bags, never in carry-on bags.
For more TSA tips visit their website at www.TSATravelTips.US

Related AnitaVacation Features:

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