Flying the friendly (safe) skies..?
May 3, 2010 10:40 PM   Subscribe

Is the TSA going to be relaxing security at airports? Help settle a disagreement..

My boyfriend was checking his bag in for a flight and he related to me that the people at the counter were talking about how nice it's going to be when they stop screening luggage for explosives and just place them on the conveyor.. and that they won't even ask the security question about who packed the bags, and if luggage was ever left unattended blah blah.

I told my boyfriend there is NO WAY that is going to happen. In fact, everything I've been reading and seeing is that "security" is becoming more intrusive and strict. He hasn't seen the full body x-ray machines and didn't even know about them. He's convinced that the conversation he overheard was insider information about upcoming changes. It makes no sense and I'm surprised he even thinks it's true. Well? Anybody?
posted by loquat to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
You are right. Your boyfriend is wrong.

and that they won't even ask the security question about who packed the bags, and if luggage was ever left unattended blah blah.

In US airports, they generally stopped asking those questions years ago. Anyhow, either your bf is playing a joke on you, or he badly misunderstood what had to be sarcastic remarks by TSA agents or airline workers. Stop screening baggage for explosives? Impossible.

I'd be surprised if the discussion he alleges even happened, though, since making casual remarks about explosives at an airport is something passengers are sharply warned against - and arport professionals certainly know better. (Though there are always lapses.)
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:48 PM on May 3, 2010

I think the TSA agent was just talking about some hypothetical future. I mean theoretically the new screening stuff was just a reaction to 9/11, so it would make sense for them to stop doing it at some point. But I think it's pretty unlikely to happen any time soon.
posted by delmoi at 10:48 PM on May 3, 2010

Is it possible they were just talking about a procedure change at that airport? At some airports (like IAD) you still have to hand your bag to the TSA agents standing in front of the big screening machine, and at others (like MSP) the airport staff does just put your bag on the conveyor behind them. (I assume the screen happens offstage.) So maybe things at that airport will be changing?

I agree with Conrad that they don't generally ask those questions in the US anymore, either.
posted by cabingirl at 11:09 PM on May 3, 2010

Actually, assuming that your boyfriend was flying from PDX, it does appear that the security procedures will be changing this year.
posted by cabingirl at 11:14 PM on May 3, 2010

There was also this change which was recently announced.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:18 PM on May 3, 2010

...and that they won't even ask the security question about who packed the bags, and if luggage was ever left unattended blah blah.

They haven't asked those questions for years.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:23 PM on May 3, 2010

...and that they won't even ask the security question about who packed the bags, and if luggage was ever left unattended blah blah.

They haven't asked those questions for years.

In my experience those questions are still always asked for checked baggage on outgoing international flights.
posted by anadem at 11:35 PM on May 3, 2010

Yes, it makes sense that the conversation was regarding a procedural change at the airport (PDX) where they will screen the bags after being placed on the conveyor behind the counter.

I fly a couple times a month and almost always get asked if I've packed my own bags and whether I have kept the bag in my sight. In fact, a couple months ago I took down a large box for a friend that her sister packed and when I was checking it in, they asked me if I packed it and what the contents were. I also get asked if I have anything in my bags that might be flammable and stuff. Lame.

I've noticed that screening standards are wildly inconsistent too. I only recently got asked to remove my laptop from it's case and store it in a separate bin. And I've forgotten about drinks and other liquids in my carry-ons which they never catch. I guess the security standards are lower, just not in any reassuring way.

Thanks for your responses. Happy journeys!
posted by loquat at 11:46 PM on May 3, 2010

I fly often, internationally, and mainly out of Boston. I have not been asked any of those questions in, well, damn, I can't even remember the last time TSA personnel asked me who packed my bags. Must be at least 4 years, if not 5.

In fact, it generally takes me 5 minutes to check in and go through security. I always underestimate how little it will take me, even though I know better by now, so I end up waiting for an hour at the gate every single time.

I've been asked half-hearted abbreviations of those questions in Italy when flying back, but security is incredibly stringent for flights flying to the US from abroad.
posted by lydhre at 6:00 AM on May 4, 2010

There's been rumors that later this year, with improved scanners, the TSA intends to lift or relax liquid restrictions. But those rumors were around last year too, so really who knows?

I think, in general, a lot of what "TSA" does really depends on the individual screener(s) involved and how strict they're feeling that day.
posted by asciident at 8:17 AM on May 4, 2010

Fwiw, even though the liquid restrictions are technically still in place -- meaning you are supposed to put your 1-quart bag with all your liquids into a bin, out of your carry-on -- I've had the sense that enforcement has gotten much more relaxed over the last 6 months or so. Nowadays I typically leave the baggy-of-liquids in my carry-on as it goes through the scanner, and I very very rarely get asked to pull it (the baggy) out. No idea whether this is part of a behind-the-scenes directive from the TSA, or just widespread indifference on the part of the screeners.

I'm surprised to hear you still get asked the "did you pack these bags?"-variety questions; I can't remember the last time I heard that. Then again, I don't check a bag very often, plus maybe this, too, depends on the station (or airline).
posted by chalkbored at 9:41 AM on May 4, 2010

If I forget to pull out the baggie of liquids, somehow nobody notices it through the X-ray machine.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:21 AM on May 4, 2010

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