TSA

TSA maps its COVID-19 cases

Airports are getting quieter and quieter, but some people are still flying.

So Transportation Security Administration officers are among the workers who must still show up for work.

Unfortunately, it turns out TSA workers aren’t immune to COVID-19 and there are have been some TSA officers who have tested positive for the virus. So it’s possible some passengers may have been exposed to the virus by these officers at some airports.

But which airports?

TSA has put together a map and is keeping a list.

Here’s what it looked like on March 23, 2020.

As of March 23, TSA said 25 screening officers had tested positive for COVID-19. An additional five non-screening employees who TSA says “have relatively limited interaction with the traveling public,” have tested positive for the virus as well.

Here’s the list of where TSA officers tested positive for the virus:

  • Newark-Liberty International Airport (EWR)
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
  • Orlando International Airport (MCO)
  • LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
  • Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CVG)
  • Cyril E. King International Airport (STT; St. Thomas, VI)
  • Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
  • Norman Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC)
  • Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood Int’l Airport (FLL)
  • Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)

TSA says it continues to work with the CDC and state and local health departments to monitor local situations.

In the meantime, passengers will find that at some airports TSA has closed some checkpoints and is staffing others with reduced hours.

TSA shares Top Ten Finds of 2019

Airline passengers attempt to take some odd, unusual and definitely prohibited items with them on airplanes.

Transportation Security Administration officers see it all.

And, as has become its tradition, TSA has created and now shares a list and a video of its Top 10 Finds from the past year.

The list, shared in descending order, includes the airports where each item was found:

10. Samurai Swords, San Jose International Airport (SJC)

9. Road flares, Anchorage International Airport (ANC)

8. Gun/Knife, Miami International Airport (MIA)

7. Auto Airbag, Orlando International Airport (MCO)

6. Power Saw, Bradley International Airport (BDL)

5. Martial Arts Sais, LaGuardia Airport (LGA)

4. Blow Dart Gun, Orlando Melbourne International Airport (MLB)

3. Uninvited Snake, Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

2. Butcher Knife, Tri-Cities Airport (TRI)

1. Moose Poop, Juneau International Airport (JNU)

Take a look.

How many firearms did TSA find at airport checkpoints in 2019?

It’s a number we anxiously wait for each year.

And it’s a number that sadly keeps going up.

In its annual Year in Review, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today shared the tally of the number of firearms its officers found at airport checkpoints around the country all last year.

The total: an alarming and record-setting 4,432 firearms were found at airport security checkpoints in 2019.

That’s an average of 85.2 firearms per week, or 12.1 firearms per day.

It’s also a 5% increase the 4,239 firearms discovered at airport checkpoints in 2018.

Here are some more stats from TSA’s 2019 firearm finds:

*Of the 4,432 firearms found, 3,863 were found loaded. And1,507 of those firearms had a round loaded.

*TSA found guns at 278 of the country’s 440 federalized airports, but firearms showed up more often at some airport than others.

Here are the Top Ten Airports where the most firearms were found:

  1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL): 323. That’s 25 more firearms than were found at ATL in 2018
  2. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW): 217
  3. Denver International Airport (DEN): 140
  4. George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH): 138
  5. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX): 132
  6. Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL): 103
  7. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL): 100
  8. Nashville International Airport (BNA): 97
  9. Orlando International Airport (MCO): 96
  10. Tampa International Airport (TPA): 87

For the record, firearms aren’t allowed past airport security checkpoints. But TSA says many firearms owners say “Oops, I forgot that was in my bag,” when their weapons are found at the airport.

Being caught with a gun at the airport can get you arrested, fined more than $13,000 per violation and cause you to lose your TSA Precheck status, should you have that.

Don’t leave your stuff at the TSA checkpoint

Resolved to fly more in 2020? How to keep your stuff.  

In 2019, airline passengers tried to take hundreds of thousands of prohibited and banned items through airport security checkpoints in the United States.

Transportation Security Administration officers found hatchets, inert grenades, fireworks, firearms (most of them loaded) and so many knives that the TSA doesn’t even keep a count.

Instead, the agency boxes them up, weighs them and hands pallets of knives and other “voluntarily abandoned” property over to state agencies to be sold as surplus property.

TSA officials say passengers who don’t want to leave a banned item behind at the checkpoint have a few options:

If the item is approved for checked baggage, a passenger can put the item in a carry-on bag and go check it in or ask the airline to retrieve an already checked back and put the item in there.

Another option: Airport Mailers and some other companies have kiosks set up near security checkpoints at many airports where travelers may package up items and pay to mail them home.

But it’s not just items on TSA’s “no fly’ list that get left behind at airports.

Each month, TSA also collects and catalogs 90,000 to 100,000 other items that are perfectly legal to travel with, but which are inadvertently left behind at airport checkpoints by harried and distracted travelers.

Those items range from scarves and sunglasses to laptops, smartphones and some odd “How did they forget THAT?” items such as bowling balls, violins, gold teeth and urns and boxes filled with human cremains.

On a post-holiday tour of TSA’s Lost & Found room at Reagan National Airport, we spotted plenty of those items, as well as multiple bags filled with left behind IDs.

We also saw shelves lined with ballcaps, CPAP breathing machines, winter coats, car key fobs that will cost $200 or more to replace, car seats, canes and fully packed carry-on bags.

It’s easy to see how hats and scarves get left behind in the bins, but what about laptops, entire carry-on bags and other essential items?

Besides the “people are in a rush,” factor, TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein has some theories:

“When it comes to laptops, many brands are grey and the same color as the checkpoint bins, so it can be easy to overlook your laptop,” says Feinstein. “Also, if a bin has an advertisement in the bottom, travelers’ eyes may be drawn to the ad and cause them to miss the driver’s license and keys still in the bin.”

The number of bins people use may also contribute to the pile-up in the Lost & Found. If you’ve scattered your stuff across multiple bins (coats here, electronics there, a flat laptop and an ID in another bin), you may overlook items in the last bin as you rush to take your stuff out and stack up the used bins.

The pile of canes?

“It’s not that we have so many miraculous recoveries at TSA checkpoints,” says Farbstein, “I think attendants and family members helping wheelchair users who also have canes often forget to pick up the canes once they’re through the checkpoint.”

Keeping your stuff out of Lost & Found

TSA keeps items left behind at security checkpoints for a minimum of 30 days and posts phone numbers on its website where travelers can contact the Lost & Found department at each airport.

(Keep in mind that airports and airlines will have their own lost and found procedures for things left in the terminals and on airplanes.)

To improve your chances of getting your stuff back – or not losing it in the first place – Farbstein offers these tips:

  • Tape a business card or some other form of ID to your laptop or smartphone. “So many models are alike, so this can make all the difference in getting yours back,” said Farbstein.
  • Before you get to the checkpoint, or while you’re standing online, take time to consolidate all your miscellaneous items (i.e. scarves, hats, gloves) and take everything out of your pockets (keys, phones, wallets, etc.). Instead of putting small items in a bin, put them in your carry-on in an extra plastic bag you’ve packed just for that purpose. If you don’t put loose items in the bin to begin with, you eliminate the chance of leaving anything in the bin on the other side.
  • Pay attention to everything you put in the bins, including things that may have a high emotional value. “A laptop may cost thousands of dollars, but I can assure you that an old beat-up stuffed animal that a child has left behind is valuable to the parent who is now dealing with a crying child,” says Farbstein.

Help is on the way

Looking forward, as part of a $96.8 million contract awarded last year to Smiths Detection, in 2020 most large and major airports in the United States will be getting computed technology 3D X-ray scanners at the checkpoints. This new machinery will allow travelers to keep their electronics in their carry-on bags and reduce the chance of so many laptops and other gadgets getting left behind.

(My story: “How to avoid leaving stuff behind at the TSA checkpoint” first appeared on CNBC in a slightly different version)

TSA adds 9 airlines to PreCheck program

The Transportation Security Administration has added nine new domestic and international carriers to the pre-check expedited screening program.

New airlines joining the program are: Air India, Asiana Airlines, China Airlines, Eastern Airlines, Elite Airways, EVA Airways, Japan Airlines, TAP Air Portugal and Volaris.

This brings the total number of airlines participating in TSA Precheck program to 65 domestic and international carriers. (The full list of participating airlines is below.)

Whether you’re enrolled in TSA Precheck or not, it’s helpful to know how long you’ll be waiting in line.

That’s now easier at John F. Kennedy International (JFK), Newark Liberty International (EWR), LaGuardia (LGA), and New York Stewart International (SWF) airports, where the respective websites now show up-to-date TSA wait times, as well as taxi wait times. The wait times are also shown on monitors inside the terminals.

According to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the real-time tracking information is part of the agency’s “aggressive efforts to deliver an enhanced customer experience” for passengers using its airports.

Here are all the airlines currently participating in TSA’s PreCheck program:

Aeromexico

Air Canada

Air France

Air India

Air Serbia

Alaska Airlines

All Nippon Airways

Allegiant Air

American Airlines

Aruba Airlines

Asiana Airlines

Avianca

Boutique Airlines

British Airways

Brussels Airlines

Cape Air

Cathay Pacific Airways

China Airlines

Condor Airlines

Contour Aviation

Copa Airlines

Delta Air Lines

Eastern Airlines

Elite Airways

Emirates

Etihad Airways

EVA Air

Finnair

Flycana

Frontier Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines

Icelandair

InterCaribbean Airways

Japan Airlines

JetBlue Airways

Key Lime Air

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

Korean Air

Lufthansa

Miami Air International

Norwegian Air

Philippine Airlines

Porter Airlines

Scandinavian Airlines

Seaborne Airlines

Silver Airways

Singapore Airlines

Southern Airways Express

Southwest Airlines

Spirit Airlines

Sun Country Airlines

Sunwing Airlines

Swift Air

Swiss International Air Lines

TAP Air Portugal

Thomas Cook Airlines (Scan.)

Thomas Cook Airlines (UK)

Turkish Airlines

United Airlines

ViaAir

Virgin Atlantic

Volaris

WestJet

World Atlantic

Xtra Airways