A teenager places his smart pad into a bin to be screened at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport.Photo by David Castellon

published on March 20, 2018 - 7:59 PM
Written by David Castellon

As spring break begins Friday, activity at Fresno’s airport will get busier as passengers encounter new security procedures for screening of carry-on items.

“These are the first broad-scale changes to TSA screening procedures at the security checkpoint in more than 11 years. These are being rolled out across the country,” Lorie Dankers, a U.S. Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman from Seattle, told reporters during a press conference Tuesday at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

The most significant changes have to do with the screening of electronics. In the past, laptops had to be taken out of carry-one luggage and placed individually in plastic bins so they could be scanned in X-ray machines, while other electronics could stay in the luggage.

Under the changes, passengers will have to remove from their carry-on luggage most electronics larger than a cell phone — “The rule of thumb, larger than 4-by-six [inches] and has a battery compartment or is powered in some way” — and place them in a separate bin for better screening, though more than one can be placed in individual bins as long as none of the items sit on top of the others, Dankers explained.

These include smart pads, Nooks and other e-readers, portable speakers, large headphones and large cameras.

Small point-and-shoot cameras, electric toothbrushes, ear-bud headphones, curling irons and blow dryers are exempt from the requirement, she told reporters.

The changes were announced last summer by the Department of Homeland Security following studies of security procedures at 10 U.S. airports and were spurred by terrorists attempting “innovative methods to disrupt the aviation system by finding ways to smuggle explosive devices in various consumer items with a continued focus on electronics,” Dankers said.

In addition, TSA is requiring passengers to put their liquids, gels, toothpastes and aerosol items into clear plastic bags no larger than one quart in size and also place them in their own bins at the security area.

“Why is TSA requiring you to do this? Its simple — removing these items from a carry-on bag allows TSA officers to obtain a clear view of the items and to get a clearer view of the items on our X-ray screen. It’s essentially decluttering the bag,” Dankers said.

The restriction on the amount of liquid, gel and aerosol items allowed on flights — none more than 3.4 ounces in volume individually and all able to fit together in a one-quart bag — remains the same.

Baby formula is an exception, though passengers can carry only amounts sufficient to feed a child or children during the flight, and the formula may be tested by TSA.

The changes will not apply to passengers enrolled in the TSA’s PreCheck, a paid program in which passengers undergo security screenings ahead of their flights.

“Those are trusted travelers. Those are people who have been deemed low risk, and they will be allowed to leave their electronics in their bags,” said Dankers, who noted that the PreCheck security screening lane at Fresno Yosemite isn’t always open. “So just plan ahead, if you do have to remove those, you can access then quickly without having to dig through your entire bag.”

She gave the same advice to other passengers so they don’t cause backups digging through their carry-one luggage.

Even with signs up at the security-screening areas, TSA staff at the Fresno airport sill had to ask several passengers to remove their laptops and smart pads from their luggage on Tuesday.

Some airports initiated the changes starting in September of last year. They started in Fresno in February and will be in effect at all U.S. airports by mid May.

“These changes will raise the baseline of aviation security in the United States,” Dankers said, adding that Tuesday’s announcement was made to help airline travelers prepare and to reduce confusion and delays at airport security screening areas, particularly during spring break.

At Fresno Yosemite, spring break is expected to increase departures by 20 percent, particular from Friday to April 1.

Dankers suggested that travelers with flights on those days arrive at the airport at least two hours early to avoid delays that could make them miss their flights.

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