Security tweaks aim to reduce air travel hassle

Summer vacation season is here, which means airport employees are preparing for throngs of travelers, especially out of McCarran International Airport.

Those traveling through McCarran this summer may see the airport’s newest addition, Terminal 3, which is slated to open June 27, and some changes in security measures if they haven’t flown in the past few years.

Lorie Dankers, Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman, said one measure passengers can take before entering a security checkpoint at the airport is knowing which items are prohibited in their luggage.

"In terms of checked baggage, 425 million (bags) went through TSA in 2011," Dankers said. "One constant issue we found is more than 1,300 firearms were detected, mostly loaded. People can bring them in checked baggage, but they must be declared to the airline, unloaded and in a hard case."

Dankers suggested using the My TSA application on its website, www.tsa.gov, or on a mobile device. Users can type in specific items they plan to pack, and the application will indicate whether it is acceptable in a carry-on, checked bag or not at all. One of the most common misconceptions travelers have, Dankers said, is an ability to stow knives in carry-ons.

"These are the types of items we would ask travelers to voluntarily abandon," Dankers said.

Dankers said one of the changes made in the past few years is that children younger than 12 are allowed to keep their shoes on when walking through security checkpoints. She said the change has reduced the number of pat-downs on children.

"Instead of pat-downs, children can make multiple pass-throughs at the checkpoint," Dankers said. "I think TSA moving in this direction allows us to focus on people who might pose a risk."

Another change includes a pre-check process in which select passengers may participate in expedited screening prior to their flights. Frequent fliers on Alaskan Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines and those enrolled in Customs and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler programs are eligible to opt in at 15 airports, including McCarran.

"When we pre-screen them, we can know about (passengers) up front and expedite the process," Dankers said. "In the expedited screening, they can leave their shoes on, keep the sealed aerosols in their carry-ons, leave laptops in their bags and leave their light jackets on. We might pull someone out (for additional screening), however, because we know we need to have that random element for better security."

The addition of Terminal 3 may change security measures , too. Chris Jones, McCarran spokesman, said plans are in place to make the screening process smoother for travelers.

"We’ll have additional screening lanes (in Terminal 3) that might alleviate some traffic," Jones said. "Two of 42 checkpoints will close in Terminal 2 when Terminal 3 opens. They won’t be open right away, but we’ll eventually have 31 lanes open in Terminal 3."

For more information on screening processes, visit www.tsa.gov.

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Lisa Carter at lcarter@viewnews.com or 383-4686.

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