TSA security checkpoint

Airport amenity of the week: VeriFLY at Denver Int’l Airport

Have you been through an airport security checkpoint recently?

We have. And it has us worrying that as passenger numbers increase TSOs and travelers will too easily revert to the pre-COVID checkpoint mentality and not pay attention to social distancing and safety.

That’s why we’re not even waiting until Friday to declare the ‘Airport Amenity of the Week.’

We’re giving the nod to Denver International Airport (DEN), which is the first airport in the U.S. to begin using the VeriFLY app to let passengers reserve a checkpoint time and then travel to the gates in a reserved train car.

Here’s how it works:

Travelers download the VeriFLY app (only available for iPhone for now), create an account, and then reserve a time to through the checkpoint on their travel date. There’s a 15-minute show-up window and there are a limited number of reservations per hour.

Passengers must fill out a health survey within 24 hours of their flight. Then, on the day of their flight, they go to the designated VeriFLY lane at the south screening checkpoint at their reserved time.

A touch-less, electronic gate will scan the access code on the app. And temperatures will be taken before passengers move to either a standard or Precheck TSA screening lane.

Once through security, passengers using the VeriFLY system will travel to their respective concourses in a reserved train car. For social distancing, only 12 VeriFLY travelers will be allowed in the train car at a time.

Face masks/covering are, of course, required for all travelers.

We hope – and expect – more airports will begin using this system.

Airports welcome back travelers with new rules, protocols and promises

Airports are joining airlines in ramping up service and welcoming passengers back to terminals that have been all but empty for months due to a record coronavirus-induced drop in air traffic.

And, like the airlines, most every airport is going all out to proclaim extreme vigilance in keeping facilities clean and travelers safe.

Mask required for all passengers entering the terminals?  Yes at airports in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Denver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C. and in many other cities. Airports in some other cities, such as Charlotte, recommend face masks be worn in the terminals although most airlines now require passengers wear masks from the curb to – and onto – the planes.

Don’t have a mask? Airports will have them for you.

The Federal Government is in the process of distributing more than 86 million masks to airports. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) now has a stash of 4.7 million masks for distribution. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) has 2.5 million masks ready to hand out.

Floor decals marking six-foot lengths to encourage social distancing? Check.

Harrisburg International Airport (MDT), not far from Hershey, PA, reminds travelers to stay 6 feet or 72 KISSES chocolates away from other passengers.

Upgraded and robust cleaning protocols? Check. Airport employees – and in some cases, robots, such as the autonomous robotic floor scrubbers at Pittsburgh International Airport – are wiping, washing, spraying and sanitizing at every turn.

Oodles of hand sanitizing stations? Check. Some airports have added hundreds of sanitizer dispensers and, like Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), now note the dispenser locations on maps and apps.

Plexiglass barriers at check-in counters, security checkpoints and gates? Check.

Step stools to make it easy for kids (and short people) to wash their hands in airport bathrooms? Check. More than 200 airports (and counting) now have Step ‘n Wash devices in the restrooms.

Shops and vending machines selling personal protective equipment? Check.

Many airport shops now stock PPE supplies and PPE vending machines are installed at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and at Denver International Airport. Hudson just announced plans to roll out PPE vending machines at 27 major airports in North America.

Branded plans and promises

Like the airlines, airports are also rolling out branded plans to underscore their commitment to cleanliness and passenger safety. 

The Houston Airport’s “FlySafeHouston” program includes adding facial comparison technology at 15 gates by October and UV disinfecting cuffs for escalators, among other measures.  

At Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport it’s the “MSY Travel Ready” plan. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has a Travel Safely at LAX plan. Jacksonville International Airport has its JAX Airport Cares program. And at Miami International Airport, it’s #MIACares.”

In many cases airport COVID-19 response plans highlight new technology and bonus efforts being made. 

For example, the “Traveler Confidence Plan” at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport notes that the main escalators have “newly installed UV-C handrail sterilization modules” and that the airport has new high-capacity floor cleaners.

The #ReadySetROC initiative at the Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC) in New York promises that enhanced cleaning includes a regular misting of anti-bacterial cleaner/solution on seating and surfaces.

At McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, which installed the country’s first vending machine filled with personal protective equipment (PPE), the campaign is dubbed “LAS All In,” and includes Vegas-themed slogans such as “Don’t roll the dice: Stay 6 ft apart!” and “We’re doubling down on cleaning and sanitizing.”

TSA has new safety protocols too

This summer travelers will also encounter some new protocols at most every airport security checkpoint in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Transportation Security Administration’s updated security procedures now allow travelers to carry up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer in carry-on bags, but require those containers to be screened separately. Passengers may also wear their face masks during the TSA screening process but should be ready to lower or adjust the mask for an identity check.

To avoid having TSA officers touch passengers’ paper boarding passes or mobile devices, TSA will ask all passengers to scan their own boarding pass and hold it up for a TSA officer to do a visual check.

And TSA now asks that any food packed in carry-on bags to removed and scanned separately. So to avoid having your food contaminated in a bin or on the belt, be sure to pack it inside a clear plastic bag.

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.

Fewer flights, but TSA + airports still fighting germs

Pretty much every airline is spooling out schedule cuts in response to reduced passenger demand, concerns about coronavirus and government-imposed restriction.

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Etihad, Norwegian and Singapore Airlines are just a few carriers that have made serious schedule adjustments in the past few days.

Fewer planes will be in the skies, but airports remain open.

And the Transportation Security Administration, which recently confirmed that three of its officers at Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, is finally getting into gear with security checkpoint-specific advice for travelers.

TSA is reminding travelers that it is OK to bring individually packaged alcohol or anti-bacterial wipes in carry-on or checked luggage. Jumbo containers of hand wipes are also allowed in carry-on or checked luggage, says TSA, as are liquid hand sanitizers.

For safety reasons, savvy travelers already know to put personal stuff such as wallets, keys, phones, loose change, etc., inside their carry-ons and not loose in the bins going through the x-ray machines.

But those bins don’t get cleaned very often – if at all – and are full of germs.

So, TSA is reminding travelers to keep their personal items from touching the bins and to wash their hands as soon as possible after going through the screening process.

Airports are continuing their efforts to stay extra clean as well.

TSA takes on Star Wars, pups and checkpoint firearms.

Today’s tidbits come from some of the social media notices shared by the folks at Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

First: On its @askTSA site, TSA is answering questions from Star Wars fans heading to a Disney park to visit the Galaxy’s Edge attraction.

People are curious about how TSA will deal wtih some of the out-of-this-world souvenirs, like “thermal detonator” coke bottle souvenirs.

TSA says don’t try putting these ‘thermal detonator’ soda bottle souvenirs in carry-on luggage. Athough they’re filled with soda, they look like something else.

And that’s why they say those items should be put in checked bags.

TSA also shared the winner of its National Dog Day Cutest K9 contest. Congrats to Alfie!

And, as it does most every week, TSA reported the number of firearms found in carry-on bags at airport checkpoints in the previous week.

Between August 19 and 25, TSA officers found 69 firearms in carry-on bags.

That tally is actually on the low end.

But, of the 69 firearms discovered in carry-on bags last week, 59 were loaded and 23 had a round chambered.