Get Ready to Unpack Your Snacks in the Airport Security Line

Taking snacks with you on your flight this summer? Get ready to put them in the plastic bin for screening along with your laptop, liquids, and shoes. As if airport security screening wasn't annoying enough already, it's about to get even more so if you're not prepared.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at many American airports are instituting a new practice of asking passengers to remove any snacks they've packed in carry-on luggage.


The Washington Post reports that:

"Passengers at airports across the country — including all three of the Washington region's major airports — are reporting a rise in TSA agents instructing them to remove their snacks and other food items from their carry-ons and place them in those ubiquitous plastic bins for a separate screening."

It's not an official policy, though TSA officers have been asking travelers about their snacks for some time now. But the extra questioning isn't because they're concerned about the food itself — it's because many snacks look like other things in an X-ray machine. If the screeners can't tell that your two candy bars are candy bars, you may get some additional attention.

Which means that, technically, TSA is trying to save people time in line at security checkpoints by having them pull out their snacks. According to the newspaper's reporting, TSA doesn't plan to make this a standard practice. Instead, they use it when the lines are long as a way to make them move faster by preventing the additional manual search of more bags.

TSA spokesman Mike England told the Post that the move isn't official policy and that it's also not arbitrary. "It's not a requirement. It's a recommendation. But you might see them recommending a little louder during busy times of the day," England said.

Because it's not an official policy and not enforced at every airport, infrequent travelers may not be prepared for it and may hold up the line while they dig every little bag of pretzels and pack of gummy bears out of their carry-on bag.

Don't be surprised to see this new totally-not-official policy pop up more frequently at airports this summer. Our best advice is to be prepared regardless — if you're carrying snacks, keep them in a place that's easy to access and pack loose items in a clear plastic bag so you're not letting, for example, an unpacked apple roll around in a plastic bin that recently held someone's shoes.

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