EVERETT — Whether it’s guns, crumbs or ashes, you don’t want to be that person holding up the line at airport security.
Yet it happens all the time, usually by mistake.
What’s up with that?
With post-pandemic travel booming and over 2 million people going through Transportation Security Administration screenings daily, it doesn’t take much to trip things up.
“Star Wars” light sabers, Harry Potter wands and laser pointers are allowed on a plane. The force can be with you, but not a foam sword or squirt gun.
TSA agents won’t take that grease-stained bag of Dick’s Drive-In burgers from you, as tempting as it might be. The strawberry milkshake is another story.
Human ashes must be in a crematory container that lets TSA agents see inside when scanned. Otherwise, you’ll have to leave your loved one behind.
The TSA continuously tries to educate us about what’s allowed through the checkpoint. And yet we continuously forget.
“Always unpack your bag before you pack it for the trip,” TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers said.
To save face, you might want to see what your toddler has stuffed in the car seat, too.
At AskTSA on Twitter and Facebook, you can send a photo of an item in question, or ask what to do if you lose your ID or leave your computer at the checkpoint. The TSA website has a handy-dandy “What can I bring?” search option.
In the last month, items collected at the Everett’s Paine Field terminal include a box of 50 rounds of ammunition, a fifth of whiskey, brass knuckles and numerous blades.
Untold bottles of oversized shampoo, sun block and peanut butter got tossed on the spot.
The rule for liquids in a single bottle is 3.4 ounces max, unless it’s breast milk, hand sanitizer or medically necessary.
Sure, you can bring a travel-sized bottle of liquor, but FAA regulations prohibit consuming alcohol on an aircraft unless it’s served by a flight attendant. So there goes that hack to save $12 on a DIY rum and Coke.
Bear spray is prohibited in both checked and carry-on bags.
Is your destination an axe throwing tournament? Not to worry. Hatchets are allowed in checked luggage. Same with cattle prods.
But you can carry on antlers.
Cast iron skillets are prohibited. Pots and pans are generally allowed.
No wonder we fliers are so confused.
Firearms seized at the checkpoint become a federal matter. The TSA can impose civil penalties.
“They’re guaranteed a fine, which ranges from $2,500 to over $13,000, depending on the circumstance,” Dankers said.
All screening comes to a halt and TSA must notify law enforcement when a weapon is discovered.
“So far this year there have been more than 2,500 firearms brought in carry-on luggage. About 86% of those were loaded,” Dankers said.
Three of those gun instances, all loaded, were at the Everett airport.
“It’s an anomaly. I think it’s when people grab the wrong bag,” said Thomas Amano, vice president of operations of Propeller Airports, which runs the Paine Field terminal.
People don’t get fined for pocket knives, a common item seized at checkpoints. The owner can take it back to the car or put it in a checked bag.
“We have assisted passengers with putting it in an envelope,” Amano said. “We’ll mail it for them if they pay for the postage. If it’s near and dear to their heart and special, we’ll go that extra mile.”
Steve and Shelley Schneider of Marysville studied all the rules before their first time taking a car seat on a trip at Paine Field. There was one thing that slipped their scrutiny.
“An avalanche of several months’ worth of old food crumbs, toys, change and miscellaneous other small items poured out of the car seat and onto the conveyor belt,” Steve Schneider said. “The TSA staff gasped and then had a good laugh. Pretty embarrassing. I apologized profusely and helped them clean up the mess. The whole ordeal held up the line for a few minutes.”
The TSA agents were understanding.
“One of them even said, ‘Oh, don’t sweat it, this isn’t even the worst one we’ve seen,’” he said.
Make sure you get all your stuff after surviving the checkpoint.
That pocket change adds up. In 2020, more than $500,000 was left by passengers at checkpoints nationwide, according to the TSA, with nearly $8,000 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
You can’t go back later and claim your 78 cents.