Why US airport security wants to check all your gadgets

Man Puts Mobile Phone Into Tray For Airport Security Check

Under new rules being introduced across all US airports, travellers passing through security will now need to remove any gadget larger than a smartphone from their carry-on luggage and allow it to be separately screened.

As in Australia, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has long required passengers to present their laptops for separate screening before boarding domestic and international flights.

That rule is now being extended to include ebook readers such as the Kindle, tablets such as the iPad and games consoles.

The aim? To make sure those other electronics aren’t being used to conceal bombs or incendiary devices. It’s a nuisance, but it’s hard to argue with that kind of logic.

The TSA has been gradually rolling out the enhanced security checks at airports across the US. It’s already active in 10 airports, including Los Angeles International (LAX), which is by far the most common landing point for flights to the US from Australia.

Other airports already being checked include Boise Airport, Colorado Springs Airport, Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Logan International Airport, Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport, Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, McCarran International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Eventually, all US airports will be covered, which means that other landing points for Australian airlines (Honolulu, San Francisco and Dallas Fort Worth) will all be included.

That means that at a US airport, you’ll have to separate all your electronic gadgets and remove your shoes, your belt, your watch and your jacket. All of that will lead to longer and slower security lines.

The practical upshot? Between enhanced incoming passenger screening and tougher security, any flight connection between international and domestic with less than three hours separating them is going to be a super risky proposition.

That said, changes in rules around electronics are the norm at airports, not the exception.

In the early 2000s, US airports sometimes required customers to be able to boot their laptops during security checks to prove that they were functioning devices. That meant that it wasn’t wise to use all your power working on board.

More recently, customers on flights from several major Middle Eastern countries to the US were banned from taking any laptops or other larger electronics onto the plane at all. Those restrictions have now largely been lifted after security at outgoing airports in the Middle East was enhanced.

But that reminds us that there’s no such thing as the right to a laptop on board, however useful it is to pass the time with.

So if you are travelling with gadgets, make sure you can easily remove them from your bag, and start doing so before you reach the front of the queue. Your fellow passengers in the line will be most grateful.

Angus Kidman is the editor-in-chief at finder.com.au, the site that compares virtually everything.

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