Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I wear a mask to the TSA checkpoint?
Yes, travelers must wear a mask throughout their travel journey. Travelers may be asked to adjust their mask for identity verification or remove it briefly if it alarms the security screening equipment.
Can I request that TSA officers use new gloves during my screening?
Yes. TSA officers are required to wear nitrile gloves when conducting screening duties and to change them following each pat-down and upon passenger request.
Can I bring my own filled water bottle through the TSA checkpoint?
No, you are not permitted to bring your own filled water bottle that exceeds 3.4 ounces through the checkpoint. Many airports now offer touchless refilling stations past security that enable travelers to fill empty bottles and containers they bring from home. Consult the directory or ask a local official for locations in your departure airport.
Do I need to remove electronics from my carry-on bags?
Yes, you should plan to remove personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone from your carry-on bag and put them in a separate bin with nothing placed on or under them for security screening. (This does not apply to TSA PreCheck™ passengers.) Some airports are using new Computed Tomography (CT) technology that allows you to keep electronics in your carry-on luggage. Passengers will be advised on the use of CT scanners at the checkpoint and of any alternate procedures.
Can TSA still open and go through my checked luggage? What precautions are being taken to reduce possible contamination?
Yes, TSA may inspect your checked baggage during the screening process. If your property is physically inspected, TSA will place a notice of baggage inspection inside your bag. To reduce the likelihood of contamination, TSA officers are changing their gloves after each bag check and conducting enhanced sanitation of baggage screening areas.
My driver’s license has expired and I haven’t been able to renew it during the pandemic. Will I still be able to fly?
Yes. If your driver's license or state-issued ID expired on or after March 1, 2020, and you are unable to renew, you may still use it as acceptable identification at the checkpoint. TSA will accept expired driver’s licenses or state-issued IDs for a year after expiration.
What is the status of REAL ID enforcement in light of COVID-19?
The Department of Homeland Security has extended the deadline for REAL ID enforcement to October 1, 2021. Visit the REAL ID website for more information.
What happens if a passenger does not comply with an airline’s mask policies and/or causes an inflight disruption or distraction for the crew?
While the failure to wear a face covering is not itself a federal violation, federal law prohibits physically assaulting or threatening to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on a civil aircraft. Passengers are subject to civil penalties for such misconduct, which can threaten the safety of the flight by disrupting or distracting cabin crew from their safety duties. Additionally, federal law provides for criminal fines and imprisonment of passengers who interfere with the performance of a crewmember’s duties by assaulting or intimidating that crewmember. U.S. airlines have policies about wearing face coverings in the airplane cabin. Please be sure to check with your airline prior to flight for further guidance
What happens if there is a sick passenger on an international or domestic flight?
Under current federal regulations, pilots must report all onboard illnesses and deaths to CDC before arriving to a U.S. destination. According to CDC illness response protocols, if a sick traveler has a serious contagious disease during air travel, CDC works with local and state health departments and international public health agencies to contact exposed passengers and crew.
Be sure to give the airline your current contact information when booking your ticket so you can be notified if you are exposed to a sick traveler on a flight.
For more information, see the CDC web page Protecting Travelers’ Health from Airport to Community: Investigating Contagious Diseases on Flights.
Can flying on an airplane increase my risk of getting COVID-19?
Most airlines and airports are enhancing their cleaning and passenger health protection protocols due to COVID-19, but air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. This may increase your risk for exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.
Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes (the air in an airplane cabin is fully renewed every 2-3 minutes, which is more frequent than most other locations in which people spend time). However, social distancing is difficult on flights, and you may have to sit near others, sometimes for hours. This makes the wearing of a face mask an important additional measure against exposing yourself or others to COVID-19. It is important to follow basic guidance on wearing a face mask and frequently washing your hands or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. For more information see CDC’s Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
International Travel Requirements
- What should passengers provide to airlines to show they are fully vaccinated?
Both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals who are fully vaccinated should travel with proof of their vaccination status to provide to their airline prior to departure to the United States.
That proof of vaccination should be a paper or digital record issued by an official source and should include the traveler’s name and date of birth, as well as the vaccine product and date(s) of administration for all doses the traveler received.
- How does the exemption from full vaccination for children work?
Children under 18 are exempted from the vaccination requirement for foreign national travelers, given both the ineligibility of some younger children for vaccination, as well as the global variability in access to vaccination for older children who are eligible to be vaccinated.
- What are the testing obligations for testing for children?
Children between the ages of 2 and 17 are required to take a pre-departure test. If a child is not fully vaccinated and traveling with a fully vaccinated adult, they can show proof of a negative viral test from a sample taken within three days before departure (consistent with the timeline for fully vaccinated adults).
If an unvaccinated child is traveling alone or with unvaccinated adults, they will have to show proof of a negative viral test from a sample taken within one day of departure.
While children under 2 years of age are excepted from the testing requirement, CDC recommends a pre-departure test for these children whenever possible.
- What does it mean to test “one day before departure”?
The test must be administered no more than one calendar day prior to the date of the international flight to the United States. So, if a traveler is departing for the United States at 10 PM on January 19, they would have to present a negative test result for a test that was taken any time after 12:01 AM on January 18.
- What kinds of tests meet the testing requirement?
Travelers must show documentation of a negative viral COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 within the past 90 days before boarding a plane to the United States (or before boarding the first flight in a series of connections booked on the same itinerary to the United States). Both nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs), such as a PCR test, and antigen tests qualify.
A self-test can be used if it meets the requirements of the order including real-time proctoring by a telehealth service affiliated with the manufacturer of the test and that generates a test result that can be reviewed by the airline before boarding. More information may be found here.
This is the same standard for qualifying tests that has applied to the pre-departure testing requirement since January, so it is well understood by travelers. More information on the types of viral tests is available here.
- What are the changes for U.S. Citizens in this new international travel system?
Previously, vaccinated travelers were required to show a negative test result within three days of travel to the United States and non-vaccinated travelers were required to show a negative test result within one day.
Starting on December 6, before boarding a flight to the United States, air travelers aged two and older, regardless of nationality or vaccination status, are required to show documentation of a negative viral test result taken within one day of the flight’s departure. You must show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight. That includes all travelers – U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPRs), and foreign nationals.
- What does November 8 mean – when is the first time a flight can take off under the new system?
This will be effective for passengers on planes that depart from their foreign destination at or after 12:01 AM Eastern Time on November 8.
- How is the United States government determining exceptions to the vaccination requirement for foreign nationals?
The presidential proclamation and CDC order include a very limited set of exceptions from the vaccination requirement for foreign nationals. These include exceptions for children, certain COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants, those with rare medical contraindications to the vaccines, those who need to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons, those who are traveling on non-tourist visas from countries with low-vaccine availability, members of the armed forces and their immediate families, airline crew, ship crew, and diplomats.
*All information developed in accordance with CDC guidelines.