Airport Security Checkpoint
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

My Experiences of Passing Through Airport Security Checkpoints During a Pandemic

When I arrived at the airport to travel from Atlanta to Denver as a passenger on an airplane operated by Delta Air Lines for my first flight since the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic began, I had to first go through the security checkpoint like every other passenger — but how different will the process be from what I expected in the past?

My Experiences of Passing Through Airport Security Checkpoints During a Pandemic

Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

The queue seemed to be really long when I arrived at the main security checkpoint — but then, an agent of the Transportation Security Administration directed those of us in a certain point in the line to proceed to a different security checkpoint.

The stanchions for the queues seemed to be positioned the same as always; but passengers were directed by the ribbons on the stanchions to queue around every other aisle to encourage remaining distanced from each other — this gave the impression that the line was longer that it really was and therefore faster — plus, round stickers which were adhered to the floor gave markers as to where to stand in order to remain six feet apart.

Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

Then — at a certain point in the queue — passengers were instructed to stop until directed by an agent of the Transportation Security Administration to proceed, two passengers at a time, side by side. One passenger could not walk ahead of the other — they were required to walk at the same pace.

Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

As each pair of passengers proceeded, another agent of the Transportation Security Administration had a dog follow along with them. I was not sure at the time as to whether the purpose of the dog was to alert the detection of the possibility of a passenger who was infected with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus — or to detect drugs or other potentially illegal paraphernalia — but I had never seen this particular procedure before.

Prior to arriving at the area where baggage is screened, I was stopped for a check of my official identification.

“Can you lower your mask for a moment?” the agent of the Transportation Security Administration asked me. I complied so that he could ensure that the identification I presented was confirmed to be mine.

I then placed my belongings onto the conveyor belt. I asked an agent of the Transportation Security Administration if I had to take my laptop computer out.

“Did anyone ask you to take your computer out?!?” she replied in a rude manner.

Despite the unnecessary attitude, I was happy to see that I was going through an older metal detecting device and not the L3 millimeter wave scanning device through which one has to stand with hands over his or her head — which meant not having to remove shoes and other fewer restrictions.

The Return Flight

Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

At Denver International Airport for the return flight — which was an overnight flight, so the security checkpoint area was not crowded — and the process was generally the same; but without the addition of the canine detection procedure.

Prior to arriving at the area where baggage is screened, I was stopped for a check of my official identification.

“Can you lower your mask for a moment?” the agent of the Transportation Security Administration asked me. As I complied so that he could ensure that the identification I presented was confirmed to be mine, I asked as I smiled to let him know that I was engaging in a little bit of levity, “Can I lower it for longer than a moment?”

“Hey — to be honest with you, that’d be okay with me,” he replied. “I have no problem with people not wearing masks.” After a short friendly conversation, he wished me a safe trip; and I wished him a good evening.

Unlike for my origination flight, I did have to go through the aforementioned L3 millimeter wave scanning device — and for some reason, it detected something on my left arm?!? An agent of the Transportation Security Administration gave my left arm a quick pat down before allowing me to proceed…

…but many passengers had their bags detected and put to the side for further inspection — and the wait times for them were as long as an additional 20 minutes. I noticed that one bag was being inspected simply for having a plastic box of moist wipes.

I have no idea how my extra set of disposable blue booties — which I wear through the security checkpoint after removing my shoes from my feet — suddenly and inexplicably wound up missing. Despite the cursory look from a reluctant agent of the Transportation Security Administration, the booties were never recovered.

Summary

Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

The procedures at the security checkpoints in the international airports which serve both the Atlanta and Denver metropolitan areas do not seem to be all that different than prior to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic — but I do like the distancing aspect, as the queues do not feel as crowded as they typically did prior to the pandemic. I never liked when the person behind me would not respect my personal space and sidle up behind me — nor did I like those who coughed, yawned, or sneezed without covering their mouths in some manner.

Of course, masks or coverings for the nose and mouth must be worn by everyone in both airports at all times except when eating or drinking — and signs advise that one considers eating or drinking in a part of the airport which is not crowded.

All photographs ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

  1. I flew through ATL early Nov and nothing seamed much different besides some spacing while waiting in line prior to the ID check. I went through the TSA Precheck there was no dog following me, the agent did as to lower my mask but once pass the agent desk is when all hell breaks loose and for sure is the most dangerous part of flying. Having to put all of your belonging in to bins on to the conveyor. At this point everything became super crowded and congested people packed in tight, no spacing, and even bumping into each other, on top of having to handle all of the dirty bins which I did not see anyone sanitizing or wiping down. Once through the full body scan or old school personal space is gone again as everyone is reaching over each other to collect their belong and of your one of the unlucky ones your bags get pulled for an agent to open and ruffle through your bags. For sure not a good experience and the most unsafe spot during travel. Once clear of the pile up congestion I did my best to wipe down my hands bags with sanitizing wipes.

  2. When I flew from BWI, IAD, JFK and DTW in the last few months, nothing seemed different except for the almost total absence of passengers. The only exception was ATL. I did notice as I was getting on to my plane to London that there were armed agents standing near the plane, but I had noticed that in January when I flew to London from JFK, as if they already knew then what was coming.

    1. I do not have TSA Pre✓, Anthony — nor did I have that designation printed on my boarding pass — but yet I was treated like I had it without knowing it.

      That was bizarre…

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