The Transportation Security Administration is testing new screening procedures that require travelers to remove electronics bigger than cellphones and some food items from their bags and place them in bins to be screened separately, ABC News has confirmed. If passengers don't comply, their bags may be opened for manual inspection.
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There is no specific threat associated with these items that requires them to be screened separately, and the change is not associated with the ban on laptops and other large electronics on flights originating from some Middle East airports; rather, the move is intended to increase efficiency. The TSA has found that everyday items can appear similar to explosives on an X-ray machine — which slows down lines because officers must manually inspect a large number of bags.
The TSA's goal is to cut down on manual bag checks and keep lines moving by screening these items separately. The change will not apply to PreCheck passengers, only to those in standard security lines.
The TSA began testing the processes a year ago at four airports and expanded it to six more, including Los Angeles International Airport, Boston Logan International Airport and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.
The agency does not believe the changes will create longer lines. It said its testing indicates that the time lost from passengers' removing items from their bags is made up because fewer items confuse staffers at X-ray machines, allowing faster scanning and reducing the number of manual bag checks.
"Although passengers may experience more bag checks, we are testing quicker and more targeted procedures at these locations," the TSA said in a statement.
The TSA will also test a machine that will verify travelers' IDs rather than have an officer manually study passports and driver's licenses. Travelers will walk up to a machine and hand their ID to an officer, who will scan its bar code, and the machine will match them to airlines' passenger lists; boarding passes will not be required. The machines will be tested in the PreCheck lane at four airports beginning this week.