Preparing for your next flight? You might be able to expect some delays as you go through security. If you’re an avid or frequent flyer, you generally know what to expect when heading through screenings: bag checks, metal detectors, and shoeless feet. But what about a recently implemented check that might be holding up the screening process even further?
Recently, Transportation Security Administration officers have been conducting secondary screenings that take a closer look at the snacks you pack for your flight. This added step of retrieving all of your snacks from your bags and placing them in a secondary bin can add an additional 15 minutes to the screening process if you’re not organized and don’t already have all of your snacks bundled together.
If these checks seem unexpected, it’s because they are. T.S.A. spokesman Mike England relayed that “there is no official policy which says that T.S.A. agents must ask passengers to remove food from their bags.” Even without an official policy, T.S.A. agents still have the right to ask passengers to remove food if they deem it necessary during the screening process. While this right was implemented last summer, more and more passengers claim they are experiencing snack checks more frequently in recent months.
According to Larry Studdiford, a security consultant for airports, some food can resemble explosives when sent through an X-ray machine. For example, blocks of cheese can appear similar to an explosive known as C-4, and seemingly inconspicuous foods such as power bars can also look like other explosives as well.
While these snack checks prove useful in promoting greater safety, not all passengers can expect their snacks to be checked in security. Mr. Studdiford relayed that the last thing T.S.A. wants to do is be predictable because if you have a predictable process, it is potentially easier to game the system and sneak in dangerous substances. With the importance of unpredictability, more personal anecdotes regarding snack checks do not necessarily mean your snacks will be scanned separately. Seeing as the process is more time consuming, however, it may be beneficial for passengers to come prepared with their snacks already separated as to avoid getting caught off-guard and having to experience costly delays.
As you plan for your next flight, consider packing your snacks in a separate bag, or grouping them together in your bags in a convenient bunch. While you might be able to get away without a secondary snack screening, it’s best to come prepared for the unpredictable.