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Answering the TSA questions you have for Thanksgiving travel

It’s simple to let the thoughts wander whereas ready in line to move via safety on the airport. From people-watching to micromanaging logistics for bettering the circulation of the road, there’s a lot to think about whereas within the queue. 

Typically questions come up: Why can’t I pet the TSA canine? Why don’t I present each my boarding move and ID to the gate agent anymore? Will I’ve to take away my liquids to scan my bag? 

TSA has made a number of changes to its course of because the begin of the pandemic, and that is a simple information to answering all of these questions.

That’s not TSA at SFO

Right here’s a enjoyable incontrovertible fact that nobody requested for: At San Francisco Worldwide Airport, the oldsters screening you and your baggage on the safety traces usually are not technically TSA. The blue-shirted officers at SFO characteristic the acronym “CAS” on their shoulders versus “TSA.”

The Transportation Safety Administration manages the checkpoint workers they usually observe all the identical guidelines as instructed by the TSA, however these of us are literally employed by Covenant Aviation Safety.

CAS has a contract with SFO to provide ID checkers and bag handlers. CAS has persistently gained the contract to work with SFO because the formation of TSA in 2001 following the Sept. 11 assaults. Different airports throughout the nation, embody the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, additionally contract with a third-party suppliers as an alternative of working instantly with TSA.

A Covenant Aviation Safety officer verifies an ID at SFO on Nov. 16, 2022.

Lance Yamamoto/SFGATE

When the Division of Homeland Safety rolled out screening at airports following 9/11, there was provision that permitted contract screens like CAS to conduct duties with the oversight of TSA. Some airports examined it out — resembling SFO — and have determined to maintain the system in place.

The Covenant Aviation Safety workers are employed and educated identical to TSA, they usually share the identical oversight. The largest distinction is that workers from CAS usually are not paid via TSA. And that their shoulder stripes say “CAS.”

Why you don’t present your boarding move with ID anymore

TSA calls its new Credential Authentication Know-how (CAT) “a safety sport changer.”

The Credential Authentication Technology machine at SFO in San Francisco on Nov. 16, 2022.

The Credential Authentication Know-how machine at SFO in San Francisco on Nov. 16, 2022.

Lance Yamamoto/SFGATE

The machine is an ID authenticator that eliminates the necessity to current your boarding move and ID playing cards to TSA earlier than processing your baggage. 

Previous to the pandemic, these TSA officers needed to cross-reference names and knowledge between boarding passes and IDs, which might result in errors. Over the previous couple of years, TSA has advanced its expertise, and the CAT machine simplifies the whole course of.

All that you must do now’s current your picture ID or passport for the officer to scan. CAT is linked to the Safe Flight database, which confirms a traveler’s flight data inside a 24-hour interval to make sure that the traveler is ticketed to journey that day. 

The vetting takes a number of seconds. Within the occasion there’s a pretend ID or situation with the traveler, a high-pitched noise alerts the officer.

When to maintain electronics and liquids contained in the bag

One other technological improve the TSA instituted is the computed tomography (CT) used to scan baggage. 

Traditionally, the machines created a 2-D X-ray picture of the contents of the carry-on bag. These machines are nonetheless lively, however TSA has begun rolling out 300 Smiths Detection machines — which seem like giant Apple iPhone wall chargers — which can be in a position to 3-D X-ray pictures. Each SFO and Oakland Worldwide Airport are utilizing the expertise. 

An SFO officer checks carry-on luggage at SFO on Nov. 16, 2022

An SFO officer checks carry-on baggage at SFO on Nov. 16, 2022

Lance Yamamoto/SFGATE

The brand new computed tomography machines enable TSA officers to generate a 3-D picture of the baggage and contents. This enables them to govern the picture and improve their readings of the content material. In essence, the 2-D machines supply visibility, whereas the 3-D machines supply an enhanced visibility. 

“It’s not about pace however what they’ll see,” mentioned Lorie Dankers, spokesperson for the TSA. 

Essentially the most thrilling characteristic of those new machines is that when a carry-on bag is screened via the CT scanner, vacationers are permitted to depart all the things of their carry-on bag. Which means preserving your electronics bigger than a cellphone and travel-size liquids inside your bag as an alternative of eradicating them. 

The Smiths Detection machines are linked to Automated Screening Lanes, which streamline the method of inserting your luggage on the belt for scanning. The roles of TSA are slowly automating. 

As seen in European airports resembling Amsterdam, these lanes take away the necessity for a TSA officer to return bins after they’ve rolled via to the opposite facet. The machine is self-sufficient and mechanically returns them to new vacationers. 



Vacationers stroll as much as one in every of six particular person areas the place they’re supplied with giant white bins to carry all of their belongings. Luggage and baggage can not roll on the conveyor belt and must be inside a bin. The bins are coded in order that if a TSA officer detects something, one other officer can simply pull the bin and discover the exact part within the bag that spurred the alert.

Quick workers means lengthy delays

TSA echoes a sentiment heard from companies throughout the nation: hiring new employees is a problem.

“Individuals don’t wish to work,” mentioned Kevin Sprouse, the assistant federal safety director of screening for TSA. “We’re struggling somewhat bit to fulfill the operational wants.”

A traveler walks through screening at SFO on Nov. 16, 2022

A traveler walks via screening at SFO on Nov. 16, 2022

Lance Yamamoto/SFGATE

At a nationwide degree, TSA is actively working to draw new hires. Dankers mentioned they’ve elevated the wage between $1,000 to $5,000 to lure new staff. At Denver Worldwide Airport, which is struggling to seek out employees, that wage bump equates to creating about $55,000 a 12 months.

At Oakland Worldwide Airport on the Thursday evening per week earlier than Thanksgiving, the safety line moved at a snail’s tempo whereas a TSA officer realized the ropes for scanning baggage. One bag at a time. 

Curiously, the trainee was studying the best way to function the 2-D computed tomography, which might sooner or later change into out of date because the 3-D expertise continues to roll out. 

A traveler looks for their bag at the Automated Screening Lanes at SFO in San Francisco on Nov. 16, 2022.

A traveler appears to be like for his or her bag on the Automated Screening Lanes at SFO in San Francisco on Nov. 16, 2022.

Lance Yamamoto/SFGATE

Disgruntled passengers bemoaned the wait at OAK, and one other TSA officer defined to SFGATE that he believed the difficulty was as a consequence of a scarcity of crammed administration positions.

Do not contact the bomb-sniffing canines

Mala the canine finds proof of explosives day by day on the job at SFO — although not often from unhealthy actors. 

The hound is the primary line of protection on the airport, and to maintain her snout sharp, her handlers plant a chunk of explosive supplies on themselves for her to seek out. 

When Mala detects the supplies, she’s educated to not accost or soar on the particular person, quite, deliberately observe them in order that her handler is aware of to drag that particular person apart with out making a scene. 

TSA says this routine is commonly so flawless that the common passenger could by no means notice {that a} bomb menace was simply neutralized proper in entrance of them.

Mala works alongside her handler Lexi at SFO in San Francisco on Nov. 16, 2022.

Mala works alongside her handler Lexi at SFO in San Francisco on Nov. 16, 2022.

Lance Yamamoto/SFGATE

For her deal with after efficiently detecting the decoy, Mala will get to chew on a lime inexperienced tennis ball. She’s rewarded with affection — which is why TSA asks vacationers to keep away from petting the canines, in order to not distract them or confuse their reward system.

The TSA’s canine unit has 350 canines which can be ceaselessly handed round from airports to main occasions just like the Tremendous Bowl or San Francisco’s Delight Parade. Every time an airport expects to see a rise of vacationers, TSA sends in canine reinforcement. There have been three canines despatched to SFO forward of the Thanksgiving rush this 12 months. 

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