June 2, 2020
Pandemic will suppress Memorial Day travel; TSA has implemented changes to security screening at airports
ORLANDO, Fla. – (INT) - For the first time in 20 years, AAA will not issue a Memorial Day travel forecast, as the accuracy of the economic data used to create the forecast has been undermined by COVID-19.

Anecdotal reports suggest fewer people will hit the road compared to years past for what is considered the unofficial start of the summer travel season.

“Last year, 43 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day Weekend, the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes in 2000,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “With social distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low.”

Memorial Day 2009 currently holds the record for the lowest travel volume at nearly 31 million travelers, according to AAA. That holiday weekend, which came toward the end of the Great Recession, 26.4 million Americans traveled by car, 2.1 million by plane and nearly 2 million by other forms of transportation.

AAA.com/travel online bookings have been rising, though modestly, since mid-April, suggesting travelers’ confidence is slowly improving.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend that Americans stay home and avoid nonessential travel. Americans should heed all official warnings and refer to the latest updates from the CDC and U.S. Department of State to help decrease the spread of COVID-19.

Tips for travelers

· Stay informed and remain vigilant when traveling, and heed all official advisories.

· Discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider. Older adults and travelers with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe disease.

· Travel with all necessary travel documentation, including health insurance cards and extra medication.

· Consult your travel professional or travel providers for any changes to travel plans or requirements.

· Know the nearest location of and contact information for the U.S. embassy or consulate to contact them in case of an emergency.

TSA prepared for summer travelers with updated security procedures

With the Memorial Day holiday weekend kicking off the start of summer, the Transportation Security Administration is preparing a very different travel season given the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. TSA has implemented changes to the security screening process that reduce the potential for cross-contamination at the security checkpoint in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. TSA has already begun implementation of these changes, with more to be implemented at airport checkpoints nationwide by mid-June.

Over the past couple of weeks, TSA has experienced a steady growth of travelers coming through airport checkpoints. As procedure changes begin to rollout in the coming weeks, travelers should expect to:

· Keep possession of their boarding passes. Instead of handing their boarding pass to a TSA officer at the travel document podium, travelers should now place their boarding pass (paper or electronic) on the boarding pass reader themselves. After scanning, travelers should hold their boarding pass toward the TSA officer to allow the officer to visually inspect it. This change reduces the TSA officer’s need to touch a passenger’s boarding pass thus reducing potential for cross-contamination.

· Separate food for X-ray screening. Passengers should place their carry-on food items into a clear plastic bag and place that bag into a bin. Food items often trigger an alarm during the screening process; separating the food from the carry-on bag lessens the likelihood that a TSA officer will need to open the carry-on bag and remove the food items for a closer inspection. This requirement allows social distancing, reduces the TSA officer’s need to touch a person’s container of food and reduces potential for cross-contamination. TSA Precheck members do not need to remove items from their bags.

· Pack smart. Passengers should take extra care to ensure that they do not have any prohibited items, such as liquids, gels or aerosols in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces, in their carry-on bags (water bottles, shampoo). In response to COVID-19, TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger, in carry-on bags. Passengers are required to remove the hand sanitizer from the carry-on bag before being submitted for X-ray screening. If a bag is found to contain a prohibited item, passengers may be directed to return to the divestiture table outside of security with their carry-on bags to remove the item and dispose of the item. The passenger may also be directed back outside of security to remove, items that should have originally been divested (such as laptops, liquids, gels, and aerosols, and large electronics) and resubmit their property for X-ray screening. By resolving alarms in this manner, TSA officers will need to touch the contents inside a carry-on bag much less frequently, reducing the potential for cross-contamination.

· Practice social distancing. Passengers should allow for social distancing to reduce direct contact between employees and travelers whenever possible without compromising security. Noticeable adjustments leading up to the security checkpoint include, increasing the distance between individuals as they enter the security checkpoint, placing visual reminders of appropriate spacing on checkpoint floors and staggering the use of lanes where feasible. No two airports are alike, so this could look a little different at each airport.

· Wear facial protection. TSA officers at checkpoints are now using facial protection. Travelers are encouraged to wear face protection to the checkpoint as well. Please note, however, passengers may need to adjust it during the screening process. Travelers are also encouraged to remove items such as belts, and items from their pockets, like wallets, keys and phones, and put them directly into their carry-on bags instead of into the bins to reduce touch-points during the screening process.

Travelers who have not flown since the pandemic are also likely to notice some other changes. They include:

· Reduced security lane usage due to the reduction in passenger volume.

· All TSA officers at checkpoints wearing masks and gloves.

· TSA officers optionally wearing eye protection and clear plastic face shields at some locations.

· TSA officers will continue the practice of changing gloves after each pat-down.

· Plastic shielding installed at many travel document checking podiums, divest, bag search and drop off locations.
· TSA officers practicing social distancing.

· Routine cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces in the screening checkpoint area.

Many airlines and airports are also providing specific COVID-19 related guidance to travelers; please check with your airline prior to your trip.

Travelers are encouraged to arrive at the airport early as COVID-19 has affected staffing and operations across the airport environment. This will allow adequate time for checking bags, completing security screening and getting to the departure gate.
Story Date: May 24, 2020
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