Holiday air travel tips suggested by TSA

Get a hard-sided case for those beloved canoe paddles, because you will no longer be able to gate-check large items that could be used as weapons.

That’s one of the pieces of advice being given to local travelers by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The newly-formed TSA is requiring certain changes at every airport across the country, with the changeover scheduled to be complete by Dec. 31.

Holiday travelers should take note of the “permitted and prohibited” items list, available on the TSA’s Web site.

Common sense should prevail. Lihu’e Airport’s federal Security Director Robert Schoonmaker said that unknown items or things that could be used as weapons are required to be confiscated, or “surrendered” upon passing through the security checkpoint. All items that make it through are going to be on the plane, Schoonmaker said, and they have to take precautions against possible weapons getting in there.

Beth Tokioka, TSA stakeholder liaison, said that about two dozen items are surrendered every day. Schoonmaker said those items will be stored at the airport until the TSA determines what to do with them.

Passengers should expect slightly longer waits over these upcoming holidays, because equipment upgrades are still being completed and airport screeners are still being trained in standard operating procedures, according to Schoonmaker.

Checked bags have less strict regulations on prohibited items. The TSA is more worried about “improvised explosive devices” (formerly known as “bombs”) and weapons that could end up in aircraft cabins. Explosive or flammable gases and chemicals are still not allowed.

TSA screeners are trained to look for explosive materials in checked bags, and use circular paper “traps,” in addition to explosive trace detectors and the “million-dollar machine” explosive detection systems.

A certain percentage of bags will be wiped on the exterior with a trap and scanned with the explosives trace detector; others will be searched on the exterior and interior; and some will be subject to a complete physical search. Searches must be completed with the owner present, and the owner cannot reach into their bag while it is being done.

Aloha Airlines is currently the only company to have an explosives detection system and does searches of 100 percent of checked bags, but by Dec. 31 all airlines must check 100 percent of bags.

If something looks suspicious enough to warrant a physical search later, the TSA will leave a paper notice in the bag or a luggage sticker. However, the TSA is still working out how to notify people about searches after a bag has already been checked.

Once bags are searched, passengers may not get them back to get anything out or put anything in.

Sterile Area

All areas past the security checkpoint are considered the “sterile area,” free of drugs and weapons, or items that might be used as weapons.

TSA screeners perform random, “continuous” searches of both carry-on and checked bags.

Screeners check 100 percent of carry-on bags with x-ray machines and explosive trace detectors. They are trained to look for , incendiary devices and objects that could be used as weapons.

If the walk-through metal detector beeps, screeners will “wand” passengers with a handheld metal detector and “resolve” all metal items by patting on clothing with the back of their hand (screeners must be the same gender as passengers). Items may also be “resolved” in a fabric-enclosed privacy booth if people refuse to be searched in the open because of cultural beliefs or personal reasons, Schoonmaker explained.

The TSA recommends removing in private “hidden items” such as body piercings that may result in a pat-down inspection, before going through the checkpoint.

Schoonmaker said that passengers will not be required to take off their shoes unless the metal detector beeps. For this reason, avoid wearing clothing and shoes with metal snaps, buckles or zippers.

If someone doesn’t want to surrender an item, they may leave the security checkpoint to put the item in question in their vehicle, give it to a friend or family member, or mail the item to their residence.

On the Web: www.tsatraveltips.us www.tsa.dot.gov

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

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