Your laptop isn’t the only item you’ll have to part with at airport security.
For over a year, the Transportation Security Administration has been quietly testing new security requirements at 10 US airports, including in Los Angeles, Boston, and Las Vegas, that require passengers to remove any electronic item larger than a cell phone, not just laptops, from carry-on baggage so scanners can better read the contents of the luggage. These requirements could be extended to other airports, the TSA said.
“This helps in obtaining a clearer picture on the X-ray machine,” a TSA spokeswoman told Quartz, adding that the tests are not related to the recent US ban on laptops and other large electronic devices on on US-bound flights from the Middle East.
Passengers may also have to part with items other than electronics, the TSA said. Food and other things travelers stuff in their bags to avoid baggage fees can also make it hard for X-ray machines to read the contents of a bag, creating false alarms.
“Everyday items can appear similar to explosives on an X-ray,” the TSA spokeswoman said. Those items could include packages of dense chocolate, the Wall Street Journal (paywall) reported.
But as with the electronics ban, having some cash to spare goes a long way.
The restrictions are the perfect advertisement for the TSA PreCheck program, whose members are exempt from the stepped-up checks. TSA PreCheck members pay $85 for five years of membership after undergoing a background check and are granted access to less invasive security screenings and usually shorter, dedicated security lanes. TSA PreCheck applications jumped last year after hourslong security lines formed in Chicago and other large US airports.
As of this month, 4.8 million people are enrolled in TSA’s PreCheck, up from 2.6 million enrollees a year ago, but TSA has said it aims to get 25 million people enrolled by 2025. What better advertisement than the alternative of a longer security line?
For those that don’t want to pay the additional fee, do yourself and your fellow travelers a favor: Instead of fumbling around emptying out your luggage, consider a digital detox on your next flight and leave the electronics at home.