01 January 2008

Follow Up : New DOT / TSA Battery Restrictions - Day 1

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

01/01/08 - Follow Up : New DOT / TSA Battery Restrictions - Day 1

As of this evening I have now heard directly from two photographers I and one very frequent flyer that have traveled today with batteries. All three report that no one checked their carry on bags for batteries, passing security at a total of five airports in three different US time zones.

One photog reportedly traveled with a mix of spare Nikon and Canon batteries and no one checked their bags at all or requested a secondary screening of the bags. The frequent flyer said they carried a spare mobile phone battery for a Blackberry, a spare battery for their Canon PowerShot G7 and a spare battery for for their MacBook Pro, in addition to six spare "AA" batteries, all were loose in the brief case, with the laptop and PowerShot G7. In their words "It was business as usual."

The TSA agent I sent an enquiry to wrote back saying that they were not checking any carry on bags for batteries at the security check point they were assigned to. They did tell me that they were however checking checked baggage for loose batteries. The explanation for not checking carry on bags at the check point was because neither they, nor any of their fellow screeners know what to look for specifically in terms how to distinguish one battery from another. This TSA agent does not anticipate being trained in checking batteries at the security check point as it would cause massive delays in security screening.

This may change tomorrow, but this is my info as of 10:00pm EST today.

Happy Flying

-Fish

3 comments:

Yong said...

Sweet, more baggage rules with no training for TSA officials. At least they're not checking at the moment.

Flying is hard enough as it is, seeing as how i get searched at EVERY airport when I travel. Nothing makes you more annoyed than being escorted to a TSA official to be searched - straight from the ticket counter.

I dunno if they still do this, but a couple years ago, my United boarding pass had a string of S's (SSSS) that the clerk circled in highlighter before taking me to a security official.

flyingfish said...

Yong

It is not a matter of untrained TSA Agents. The issue is the DOT has set forth a set of rules that is extremely complex to enforce as well as one that is very difficult to train agents to perform. At this time, as batteries are not seen as a direct threat to airline security, it appears that the TSA has opted to not change it's policy for checking carry on baggage.

What you are describing on your boarding pass is the dreaded "SSSS." In general you are not escorted from the counter to the check point, but if they do that's great! No waiting in line! I have had "SSSS" on my boarding pass, waited 20 min in line, then been pulled over. In theory "SSSS" comes up at random. I have found this to be semi-true. I have also found that certain things can bring up an "SSSS" almost always.

When I fly I rarely have SSSS, I found that as I went up the airline "elite" chain for frequent flyers the occurrence of "SSSS" went down. Whenever I have walked up to the counter, changed my itinerary drastically, after already starting my travel and left my ticket "open ended" the "SSSS" shows up more often.

I have actually found that if I show the initial boarding pass screener a boarding pass with SSSS I can save 5 minutes at certain security lanes!

As much as there are huge gaps in the TSA's screening process, overall the TSA Agents have a hard time. Be polite to them and you'll clear security faster than if you stand in front of them and complain about being singled out for secondary screening.

Happy Flying!

-Fish

Yong said...

Oh, I make a point of being as nice and compliant as possible while in any airport, seeing as how they have the power to prevent me from flying at all! I just grumble on the inside :)

Thanks for the SSSS elaboration.