Security screeners at Juneau Airport began to examine some checked luggage for bombs last week in preparation for a New Year's Eve deadline.
David Mitchell, the federal security director for Southeast Alaska, said the Transportation Security Administration will screen all checked luggage for explosives here by Dec. 31.
"Dec. 31 midnight the clock starts, if you will," he said. "One hundred percent of bags in all of our airports in Southeast and all of the nation's airports, for that matter, will be 100 percent searched."
In Juneau, the TSA has installed six explosive-detection machines next to the Alaska Airlines ticket counter. Juneau passengers will have their luggage screened after they have checked in and received seat assignments, Mitchell said.
"The public can stand right along here and watch the bag being searched," he said, standing in front of the U-shaped setup of tables and equipment on Friday. "If they don't want to (watch), they don't have to. They can go up and get on the airplane, not a problem."
In Juneau, screeners are searching luggage by hand and using a small wand to swipe for explosives. Because of the new procedures, the TSA is asking travelers not to lock procedures, the TSA is asking travelers not to lock their bags to avoid having them forcibly opened, said TSA stakeholder liaison Kathy Mathews. By Jan. 1, the TSA plans to provide colored clips to travelers that can be snipped open if necessary, she said.
"We'll put a tag in the luggage that says we've searched it and an 800 number if a person has a problem," she said. "So they can see that someone has inspected their bag."
Holiday travel tips
Pointers from the Transportation Security Administration
Wait to wrap your gifts. Wrapped gifts might need to be opened for inspection.
Do not lock your bags.
Don't stack books in luggage. Spread them out instead.
Put footwear on top of other contents and consider putting personal belongings in clear plastic bags.
Avoid packing food or beverages in checked bags.
Put camera film in your carry-on bags. Screening equipment will damage undeveloped film in checked bags.
The TSA is coordinating with Alaska Airlines to inspect firearms, Mitchell said. For the most part, the procedures will be the same, he said.
"Weapons still need to be packed in a hard case; they do need to be locked before they get on the aircraft," he said. "What we're working on is a local procedure when the weapon arrives at the Alaska Airlines ticket counter, we'll have one of our agents go over and open the bag with them."
The TSA is advising travelers to put undeveloped film in carryon bags and leave gifts unwrapped when they travel, Mathews said. People should avoid putting food, beverages and any organic material in their checked luggage because they can set off alarms, Mitchell said.
Another tip is to avoid wearing metal jewelry and shoes with metal buckles, Mathews said. In addition, some underwire bras can set off alarms, she said.
"Just try to think about how you're dressing," she said.
Because of the new procedures, travelers should arrive at the airport two hours before departure to make sure their bags make it on the flight, Mitchell said.
Juneau Airport is scheduled to receive a faster X-ray machine this spring to screen checked luggage. The TSA has 67 screeners in Juneau and plans to hire about 20 more, Mitchell said.
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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