I went to Las Vegas at the beginning of last month. I flew because the drive from L.A. to Vegas has become so long and tedious; it’s so not worth it.
Going through Transportation Security Administration screening—or ‘TSA theater’ as I like to call it—is a(n) (un)necessary annoyance every time we travel. We have to take our shoes off, take our laptops out—and on my return trip, I got pulled aside so they could go through my bag containing our leftover hotel snacks.
Yes, y’all. They went through and examined every single snack in there, and according to the Washington Post, this is actually a real thing now. Passengers have reported being instructed to remove snacks from their bag for a separate screening.
TSA spokesman Mike England told the Post that this procedure is not standard policy, but rather a recommendation the agency issued last year to help speed up the bag-check process. It is up to the discretion of screening supervisors at each airport whether or not, and when, to require passengers to pull snacks out of their bags.
Even with that, however, the Post reports that what is being touted as a recommendation is actually becoming standard practice.
Amy Gaul—a 33-year-old PhD student at Georgetown University—is a frequent traveler who told the Post that she had never even heard of snacks being screened until April when a TSA agent at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport told her “Sorry. This is a new policy. This is what we’re doing now.”
Gaul said the line moved slower because of the extra screening, as it did in my experience at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas.
“It definitely caused a delay—not huge, but at least by like five or 10 minutes,” Gaul said. “Mostly it was just bizarre and absurd.”
England told the Post that the snack-screening recommendation is part of an effort to better detect explosives as well as limit the number of bags that are flagged for special searches.
There is no fear that people are hiding explosives in their snacks, England said, but food itself can look similar to the components of an explosive—and that could make it more likely that a bag would be pulled for a special search.
England told the Post that there are no immediate plans to make this a standard practice at all airports across the country, but supervisors may use it when they think it will help speed things up in the security screening process.
“It’s not a requirement. It’s a recommendation,” England said. “But you might see them recommending a little louder during busy times of the day.”
So, get ready. Throw away your water and soda. Take your shoes off. Put your laptop into a bin all by itself, and pull your snacks out just to be safe.