Airport security

Fewer passengers, but more firearms at airports

This is alarming:

While there are still fewer passengers flying on commercial planes due to the pandemic, there is an uptick in the number of firearms people are bringing with them to U.S. airports.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced this week that so far this year its officers have found a record number of firearms at airport security checkpoints.

As of October 3rd, with three months yets to go in 2021, TSA officers had stopped 4,495 passengers with firearms. That already surpasses the previous year-long record of 4,432 firearms caught throughout all of 2019.

In 2019, TSA found 5 firearms per million passengers. So far this year, TSA discovered 11 firearms in carry-on bags at airport checkpoints per million passengers.

Here are Top 10 airports for firearms discoveries so far this year. Note that the most firearms have been found at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), and that three Texas airports (DFW, IAH, and DAL) are on this list.

ATL: 391

DFW: 232

IAH: 168

PHX: 147

BNA (Memphis): 115

DEN: 107

FLL: 107

MSY: 90

SLC: 90

DAL: 88

Alarming, right?

Alarming & heartwarming TSA Tweets

We’re still missing the corny communications TSA’s Blogger Bob Burns once shared with the public, but Lisa Farbstein and the team on duty now are doing a great job of keeping the public informed with light but serious messages about what can and cannot go through airport security checkpoints.

The tweets about the guns and other weapons people try to take through airport security checkpoints always alarm us, but this Tweet and the story of a TSA officer finding and returning a lost diamond is very heartwarming.

REAL ID deadline delayed. Again

If one of the many things worrying you during this pandemic has been how to get to a Department of Motor Vehicles office so you can get a driver’s license or identification card that is REAL ID compliant, you can relax.

The Department of Homeland Security has decided to delay the deadline for this. Yet again.

The latest deadline for this was supposed to be October 1, 2021. But now the deadline has been pushed back 19 months to May 3, 2023.

“Protecting the health, safety, and security of our communities is our top priority,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. “As our country continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, extending the REAL ID full enforcement deadline will give states needed time to reopen their driver’s licensing operations and ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card.” 

What is the big deal about REAL ID?

After the terrorist hijackings on September 11, 2001, Congress passed the Real ID act with the idea of adding extra layers of security to the driver’s licenses and other identification documents travelers show when seeking to board an airplane.

Many states have had a hard time (or were opposed to) meeting the stricter requirements, so enacting the law has been delayed many times already.

Now, if nothing else causes the READ ID deadline to be pushed back yet again, beginning May 3, 2023, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification (such as a passport) at airport security checkpoints for domestic air travel.  

How do you know if you have a driver’s license that’s REAL ID compliant? In most states, there is a star in the upper, right hand corner. To see what the procedure is in your state, check the DHS REAL ID page.

Don’t take your gun to the airport

It’s been a while since we took a look at the count of guns and other dangerous items travelers try to take through airport security checkpoints.

For the record, firearms, grenades and a long list of other dangerous – or dangerous-looking items – aren’t permitted airside in airports.

Yet each week passengers do show up at airport checkpoints with guns, live ammunition and other prohibited items in carry-on bags.

During the peak Thanksgiving holiday period, between November 18 and December 1, TSA officers found 153 firearms in carry-on bags.

Of those 153 firearms discovered, 127 were loaded. And 47 of those firearms had a round chambered.

In addition to firearms, TSA officers also found this novelty item at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on November 25. Grenades and inert grenades, no matter how cute, are on the list of items to leave home.

These grenades also showed up recently at airport checkpoints.

In this picture:

An empty grenade discovered by TSA officers at Louisiana’s Monroe Regional Airport on December 1.

An empty grenade discovered during X-ray screening at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on November 24. 

A novelty belt buckle grenade discovered at Louisville International Airport on November 28.

According to TSA, the most common reason travelers give when firearms and other dangerous items are discovered in their carry-ons is “Oops, I forgot that was in there.”

What happens to people who get caught with these items at the airport?

Some get fines up to $13,333. Some get arrested. And TSA Pre-check members run the risk of losing their status.

How to cut the checkpoint line at Boston Logan AIrport

Want to skip to the front of the airport security checkpoint line?

We all do.

To get the courtesy, you can pay for TSA Pre-Check. You could pay for a CLEAR membership.

Or, if you’re flying out of Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), you could take a boat to the airport.

Boat service has been offered for quite a while. But in a new program, passengers who take water transportation to Boston Logan International Airport will now get complimentary priority access at the airport security line.

Under the plan, passengers who take the MBTA ferry or water taxi service to the Logan Airport Boat Dock (Fare: $15) will get a “Ticket to Skip” pass when they get off the boats and board the free Logan Airport shuttle to the terminals.

The orange ticket can then be presented to security checkpoint staff in exchange for preferred lane access.

In good weather, taking the water taxi from Boston waterfront is a great adventure and can be quite convenient.

The small boats leave from Long Wharf, which is right by the New England Aquarium, the North End, Faneuil Hall and other popular Boston landmarks you might be visiting on your way out of town anyway.

So the ride to the airport can be part of your vacation.

Find more information about getting to and from Boston Logan International Airport (Bos).