6 Surprising (Amusing!) Things You Didn't Know About Airport Security

6 Surprising (Amusing!) Things You Didn't Know About Airport Security

Ease your experience... and seriously up your travel trivia game.

By Karen Gardiner

If it weren't for the association with the thrill of travel, the airport security line might be one of the least appealing places to be on earth — with all of its rules, restrictions, and indignities. Perhaps knowing a bit more of the behind-the-scenes minutiae will help enliven your next experience. At the very least, it makes for excellent cocktail party trivia among the jet set.

1. Got a question about your carry-on? You can tweet the TSA.

We've already discussed the comedy gold that is the TSA's Instagram feed — and its occasional forays into tragedy as poignantly illustrated by this abandoned teddy bear. However, if you have a serious question about the legalities of certain items in your carry on and don't want to cause a scene in the security line, you can simply AskTSA on Twitter where they will give you the go-ahead on some items — such as "delicious bacon" — to a hard no for others, such as "Satan's pizza cutter."

2. Some surprising (and sharp) items are actually allowed through.

For obvious reasons, box cutters and knives are banned, but there are some sharp items the TSA will let through, including scissors with blades no more than four inches long and ice skates — which is surely asking for trouble given the temperment of some ice skaters.

3. There is a neat trick for getting your drink through.

As we learned earlier this year, there's no need to purchase an overpriced drink at the airport if you can bring your own with you. All you have to do is freeze it! However, if the words "frozen drinks" have you immediately reaching for a frozen daiquiri, disappointment awaits. Per the TSA’s own language: “Frozen liquid items are allowed through the checkpoint as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening.” That means no slushies, alas. Also, you're not allowed to bring any alcoholic drinks on board: FAA regulations say that "no person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage to him."

4. Some food items show up as explosives.

Sausages — as confirmed by the helpful AskTSA account — are perfectly acceptable in your carry on. But, you should take them — and any cheese you may be harboring — out of your bag before putting it through the X-ray machine. According to Reader's Digest, "the signature of these items is indistinguishable from explosives."

5. Taking photos is sometimes OK.

As long as you’re not interfering with the screening process, slowing things down, or filming or taking pictures of the monitors,the TSA does not prohibit anyone from photographing, videotaping, or filming at screening locations. However, the local laws of the city's airport may do. So, if you really want a photographic souvenir of your security line experience, call ahead to ask.

6. Airline employees face less screening than you.

The TSA requires background checks on anyone applying for an airline or airport job, but they can still bypass the screening other passengers go through. Four months after federal authorities discovered that a baggage handler was part of a ring that smuggled guns from Atlanta to New York, the TSA announced increased "random and unpredictable screening of aviation workers at various airport access points to mitigate potential security vulnerabilities.” However, last spring the former TSA administrator said that only Atlanta, Miami, and Orlando have thorough worker vetting in place.

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