View Full Version : Traveling through airport security

01-01-2003, 04:30 PM
Back by popular demand,

I have received a number of emails. Hopefully this will answer many of your questions and maybe raise a few. Feel free to contact me or review the TSA website. I am a TSA employee doing this voluntarily. While some things may differ slightly the end result will be the same...passenger safety.

With the increase of air travel security, I still see many things that the average traveler overlooks. So in an effort to help the flying public identify a few things to prepare for it will hopefully help cut down on frustration and delays.
As you may have already read, many changes have been implemented with more to come as we are constantly evaluating the security of our nations airports and the safety and convenience of passengers.
For the most up to date news and information go to http://www.tsa.gov/public/index.jsp . This website is the official website for TSA and list Travel Tips, News and Events and offer Spotlight information.
Most noted is the implementation of 100% bag search . It varies from airport to airport depending on the circumstances. Some may be done in front of passengers while it is not practical at others due to space and safety concerns. Please be advised, if you lock your suitcase and we find it necessary to physically search the bag, the lock will be cut off. If it has a built in lock as I understand it currently an attempt will be made to contact the passenger to gain entry. If weíre not able to contact the passenger in short order those locks will also be disengaged. We take nothing for granted and refuse to sacrifice the safety of the flying public. In both cases the bags should be re-secured. No one else but TSA employees handles these bags from the time you check it in until the time it leaves our hands to board the plane.
While traveling with carry on luggage be aware of the rules concerning the number and size of carry on luggage. Your airlines is responsible for this information. Review the TSA website (http://www.tsa.gov/public/index.jsp) for prohibited items. Common things overlooked are pointed scissors of any kind. Scissors always forgotten are in kits. Knives of any size and type (i.e. money clips with blades, corkscrews with blades etc.). strike anywhere matches (stick) and too many lighters (no more than 2 per passenger).
Before you go through a walk through metal detector and if youíre not wearing tennis shoes, itís a good bet your shoes will alarm. Take them off. While this is optional, it will save time and additional screening. I see day in and day out, we all go through our pockets to get every piece of metal out only to have our shoes go off when you walk through. Just because they didnít go off in the last airport doesnít mean they wonít at the next.
The next change taking place and may be in place in some airports is random passenger screening will now be done at the security check point instead of just prior to boarding the plane. This will eliminate passengers potentially getting screening twice. The airlines selects who these passengers are using whatever criteria they use and it will be somehow identified on your ticket. Each airline has a different format for doing this.
Again feel free to contact me for additional questions. I look forward to continue serving you and will continue to be vigilant in securing your safety.

Happy Traveling,


01-01-2003, 05:47 PM
Thanks Brian for posting this.

01-01-2003, 08:23 PM
A thank you and a most worthwile BUMP!

A few years back we bought one of those high end Samsonite hardsiders with the built in locks that have to be locked to keep it closed and was worried they'd just go ahead and break it to get into it. I am glad they'll at least attempt to find us first (not usually a problem, we always go straight to our gate to wait to board, and both of us carry a key to it) We bought it with the express intent of minimizing the number of bags we bring, and the fact it is very easy to move around and would hate to go back to a zippered bag.

Again our thanks for taking the time to keep us informed!

01-01-2003, 08:26 PM
Can you secure you bag with a zip tie? This will prevent it from coming open and can be cut if need be. Thanks for the site, great info.
Happy flying

01-01-2003, 08:35 PM

When we purchase liquor in the carib, how do we carry it home? Can we put it in our checked luggage? If not, does it count as a carry on, on the way home.

Thanks for your help,

01-01-2003, 08:58 PM

You can tie your bag with a zip tie. If we need to do a physical search we will cut it do our search and re-secure the bag either with tape or another tie. The tie is prefered but as the government goes we have not received ties so we've been taping the bags.


All airlines have their own rules for carry on. If it were me, I'd wrap it for protection and put it on checked luggage.

01-01-2003, 09:19 PM
I have a birght idea along those lines - how about including a few extra zipties inside the luggage on top of evertything with a note to use them to re-secure the bag if needed? Would you then use them?

01-01-2003, 09:36 PM

It's a possibilty but the honest answer is we're not looking for a note or supplies as we'll be too busy to read a note. Good thought though.


01-01-2003, 10:08 PM
The one thing that confuses me about using the zip ties is how are you supposed to cut them when you arrive to your destination? I mean you can't take a little pocket knife or scissors with you in your carry on. I am putting a small pair of scissors in the zip front of one of my bags so i can cut my ties when we get there. Is this going to be OK?

01-01-2003, 10:58 PM
Originally posted by bmartin1206

All airlines have their own rules for carry on. If it were me, I'd wrap it for protection and put it on checked luggage. [/B]

That is what I have always done, dirty clothes keep the bottles from breaking(grin). The reason I asked, is that on the TSA website it says not to pack beverages in your checked luggage.


01-02-2003, 08:10 AM

Food and drink are not prohibited. You may take both, they'd just rather you didn't for reasons I cannot discuss. It is intended to save time.

01-02-2003, 08:43 AM
Brian - thanks for your most informative post. There have been a couple of threads in the last few weeks with people being concerned about the security of their belongings if the locks are removed. Taswira, in particular, mentioned a documentary show where they secretly video taped airport baggage handlers going thru checked luggage and pilfering items. If you'll recall, it was a pretty big scandal at the time. So it is the quote below that interests me:

In both cases the bags should be re-secured. No one else but TSA employees handles these bags from the time you check it in until the time it leaves our hands to board the plane.

From your message, am I to understand that once the TSA checks the bags, no airline/airport baggage handlers have contact with the luggage? I don't want you to share sensitive info, but how can that be - surely TSA is not loading luggageonto the aircraft!? Also, there is no protection at all once the luggage arrives at the destination, nor if the bags are transferred, correct?

What I fear will happen is that people will try to carry on more & more junk since they will be worried about the security of their possessions. As a very frequent flyer (100+ flights in 2002), I watch what people bring on to the planes with growing horror. I have had bags dropped on me from above (never take an aisle seat) and half the people cannot even get their own bags into the overheads. BTW - this is even with the new carry on rules.

Just my 2 cents but I think that as these rules evolve, we are going to have to figure out ways to make sure we are physically safe from harm but also that our possessions are secure.

01-02-2003, 08:49 AM
a couple years back, some news magazine like 20/20 or something along those lines had a segment on baggage handlers and it did show them stealing items out of the luggage as they were loading planes. This is the only reason i am leary of not locking my luggage.

I for one applaud TSA (perhaps you have heard of NCS Pearson, where I work. This is the company that won the government bid to get TSA set up in airports). I know they are doing their best to ensure everyone's safety. I just wish i knew for sure if i could take a pair of cuticle scissors in my carry on so that i would have some way of cutting the straps. I hate the thought of my luggage being unlocked, but understand the need for this.

01-02-2003, 09:16 AM

Sorry for the misunderstanding. No, TSA does not load the planes. My intent was to convey that if you had locked your bag and we had to cut a lock to open it it would be resecured before going to airport baggage handlers and boarding the plane. We are only insuring there are no dangerous or prohibited items getting on the planes. After that the airlines are responsible.
We cannot control the carry on situation. It's up to the airlines to police that. I know in our airport they have cracked down. We are only responsible for checking what comes through the security check point.
Personally I travel in tennis shoes and no carry on. These two things eliminate nearly all issues. If I do get pulled for a random selection it goes very quickly.
The more you carry, the more we'll have to go through, the more you'll be waiting, the more hassle it'll be. Let the system work for you. We all have to learn to travel a different way if at all possible.

01-02-2003, 09:41 AM
What is the purpose of storing shoes on top of your suitcase? I have always put them on the bottem or beside all the clothes. I quess if you put them in ziploc bags that would help them from getting seperated and getting the clothes dirty.

OH, One more thing. Is it ok to keep a small pair of scissors in the front of your suitcase to cut your zip ties? Thats what we were planning, but for some reason they disappear, I can always ask the hotel people for a pair to cut the zips.

MarkRG that is a great idea about the zip ties. Make the note big and bold on top of your luggage with a zip tie for that piece of luggage taped to the note. Put one in each suitcase. I am going to try this. It will put a smile on the TSA faces, I hope.

01-02-2003, 09:48 AM
Shoes more often than not are cause for concern. They're just easier to get to if they're on top. If you have scissors on your checked luggage they're ok. If you want to take some on carry on they should be safety scissors (round tip).
We (TSA) appreciate all of the support from everyone.

01-02-2003, 09:56 AM
Your help is very appreciated. I didn't think about the round tip scissors, great idea. The shoe thing makes sense. I had a pair of boots swiped and scanned four times the last time I traveled:< this time I am wearing tennis shoes!

Cheryl N. WI
01-02-2003, 11:23 AM
This is probably a stupid question but what are zip ties, where can we get them and how much do they cost? We fly out tomorrow for our cruise and I just found this great post and read through the links that Brian posted. Thanks Brian for the info!

I have a duffel bag where I pack all of our shoes in seperate ziplock bags. That way they don't wrinkle anything. Seeing how we are going on a cruise we have quite a few pairs of shoes for the 3 of us. Will this be a problem having a bag full of shoes?

Cheryl:earsgirl: :earsboy: :earsgirl:

01-02-2003, 12:21 PM
Zip ties are sometimes also called cable ties. You put one end through a small opening at the other and then pull until tight. You can then trim off the excess tie that's sticking out so it doesn't get caught on anything.

You can get them at any hardware store, or at Walmart, Kmart, etc in the hardware department. A bag of 20 or so should be around a buck - they're cheap. :)


01-02-2003, 12:45 PM
Brian has offered some great tips, so to further the cause, I would like to offer one of my own.

Although most people reading this will be flying in/out of the U.S., just for future reference, if you plan on flying to Canada, just remember that the rules are a little different and you should be prepared. I am a pre-board screener in Calgary and we always have our biggest problems in our U.S. destinations gate because even though you are flying TO the U.S., you are departing from a Canadian destination and now CATSA, not TSA, is responsible for the security screening of passengers and some of the restricted/non-restricted items differ. Here, you are not allowed ANY type of scissors, corkscrews, knitting needles, sporting equipment or tools of any kind. Here is a link to CATSA's list of prohibited items http://www.catsa-acsta.gc.ca/list_of_items_e.html

And the biggest tip of all: arrive early to the security checkpoint just in case! Most people that I stop with items they are not allowed to carry on the plane, have simply forgot that the item was in their bag or didn't even know it was in there to begin with.

So give yourself some extra time and always remember, security is for the safety of ALL passengers!;)

Cheryl N. WI
01-02-2003, 12:52 PM
Julie Thanks for the quick response! I have a few last minute errands to run so I think I'll stop and pick some up.
Am I correct in asuming you use them in the place where you would usually put the suitcase lock? You don't buy ones long enough to wrap around you whole suitcase do you?


01-02-2003, 01:04 PM
cheryl.........most zippers have a hole in them that you can thread the zip tie through to another zipper or handle, or d ring. If you get zip ties that are thin, you can cut them with fingernail clippers if necessary. Just make sure that what you take to cut them is accessible, either in a carry-on or in a front (unziptied) pocket of a checked bag.

01-02-2003, 01:09 PM
Right... they're small and go where you'd normally put a small luggage lock. I just took some out that I have and they're about 8 inches long and 1/8 inch wide. These came in a bag of 100 and were a couple of bucks, if I remember correctly.


01-02-2003, 01:11 PM
Thanks for the helpful tips. I was a little nervous flying with my luggage unlocked but if I can use the ties I'll feel more comfortable. I have nothing to hide but I also have nothing that I want to loose. Happy flying and sailing!!

01-02-2003, 01:24 PM
Brian - first of all thanks for the clarification. I know you have little control over any of the rules, and for the most part, my travels go very smoothly. I wish I could travel in tennies and w/o a carry on but alas my sneakers look bad with my suits and I don't think it's too prudent to check my laptop, although I wish I could. :D I just empty my bag & take my shoes off (and pray that there are no slushy puddles). I have been only been randomly searched about 10x since 9/11 and given I've taken maybe 125 flights since then, it's no problem for me.

With respect to zip ties, DCL made these available on the night before debarkation.

Cheryl N. WI
01-02-2003, 01:33 PM
Thanks everyone for all the helpful info about the zip ties.