What does TSA stand for? Hint: The “S” is definitely not for “Sanitary”
I had a really positive experience flying with Delta so they held up their end of the “flying during COVID” bargain, but TSA, you let me down. Warning to all my friends and followers, TSA is the weakest link in the travel journey so brace yourselves.
TSA does not enforce 6 foot social distancing. Not during the process of adding your items to the conveyor belt, or when you are waiting to be scanned or even when you are picking up your items. The worst part of the experience, in my opinion, is the bins. Oh the bins with that pocket lint, that crumpled up wrapper and someone’s stray hair…. Yes, those bins. The bins TSA agents scream at you to fill in a timely manner in a seemingly new way each time you go through. Those bins grossed me out BEFORE the pandemic so you can imagine my angst now…
Back in 2018 I read an article from the Washington Post that I will never forget. A study was done at an airport in Finland regarding the germs on an average airport security bin compared to other areas of the airport.
In the study they found that bins were “commonly contaminated” with “the highest frequency of respiratory viruses.”
They are so filthy that even TOILETS in the airport did not have these germs. Ironically enough, the article even recognizes that “airports can serve as a potential risk zone for an ‘emerging pandemic threat.’" Eerie to read this article again as we live through a pandemic.
I believe the main problem TSA has in regards to enacting new protocols for cleanliness is that they do not have the incentive to do better! They are not an airline company who has a healthy level of competition for flyer’s business. They have no pressure from a competitor and their goal was never to make money in the first place. Their goal as a government entity is to keep us safe. The government wants to do this obviously in the cheapest manner possible. The ONLY change I saw in September of 2020 was every TSA agent wore both a mask and a face shield. This is a nice start but there was no hand sanitizer visibly available to flyers or employees, there were no social distancing stickers on the floor of the main loading and scanning area, and there was no wiping of the conveyor belt or bins.TSA has utterly failed when it comes to enacting new safety protocols in my opinion.
Due to this lack of leadership from TSA, Delta has actually stepped up to help them enact new safety protocols in a select few airports, including MSP. If you would like to hear more about Delta’s thought leadership, read this recent update from Travel + Leisure. Please note, I have not witnessed these changes coming to fruition at the MSP airport yet (October, 2020).
Fear not (so much) though! Because here are a few handy tips to use next time you are walking through TSA if you wish to be ultra cautious.
#1Bring plastic bags (like a Target or grocery bag size) and garbage bags to place your items into. The small Target/grocery store size plastic bags can be used to put your laptops into since you must still remove those from your bags and place them in an individual bin. Use garbage bags to place your jackets/neck pillows/duffle bags into so the outside of your other belongings don’t touch the bins unnecessarily.
Bring hand sanitizer. My favorite hand sanitizer to use, like the mask, is made by the USA based company, FLYGIENE, linked here. This sanitizer smells better than any sanitizer I have ever used while still killing 99.9% of germs. It has a pleasant, natural floral fragrance instead of the stench of an overturned truck of cheap vodka that some hand sanitizers can overpower you with. FLYGIENE hand sanitizer also has aloe in it and makes my hands feel very soft. The packaging is good and the pump is designed to deliver the perfect amount needed so there is little waste. Make sure to use this sanitizer regularly after you touch the bins, exchange your ticket/ID with any gate or TSA agent, and for sure prior to eating or drinking.
Bring hand wipes (if you can find them to purchase - they are a bit of a unicorn right now) to wipe down your bags that touch anything at TSA or at the baggage pickup point for checked baggage. I was SHOCKED to see on the wipe how dirty my suitcase handle was.
If your bag was flagged to be hand checked, you are allowed to ask your TSA agent to change to a fresh set of gloves for handling your belongings. I appreciated it when they happily did this.