REMINDER:  Arrive to the airport at least two hours prior to your flight's departure.

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Navigate TSA Like a Pro: Tips for going through security at AVL

If you’ve never flown before, or if it’s been a long time since you’ve flown, going through TSA security can seem intimidating. However, you can make going through security a breeze with some simple preparation and basic research. 


What About the Line? 

It is recommended that all passengers arrive at the airport at least two hours before your flight’s boarding time for domestic flights. This time allows you not only to park and check-in, but to get through the TSA line. Even though AVL is a regional airport there are times, especially during peak travel times, when passengers may experience a longer-than-expected line at TSA. You are not allowed to move to the front of the line, even if you are running late for a flight; that’s why it is important to give yourself extra time.  

One way to expedite your way through TSA is by applying for TSA PreCheck. This allows you to go through the separate TSA PreCheck line, with the added benefits of being able to leave your shoes, belt and a light jacket on. 


What Documents Do I Need? 

Only those 18 and older need an ID to go through TSA security. Currently, only driver’s licenses or other state photo ID cards licensed by the DMV are required. But beginning on May 7, 2025, IDs will need to be REAL ID compliant. 

If you don’t have a license, or have lost it, there is a whole list of other acceptable forms of ID (including passports, Veteran Health Identification Cards and Department of Defense IDs). If your license has expired, the TSA currently accepts expired licenses for up to a year after expiration. 

If you don’t have any form of photo ID, you may still be able to fly. The TSA may go through a process of collecting information in order to verify your identity. If they are able to confirm your identity you will be subject to additional screening, so it is recommended to allow yourself extra time. 


3-1-1: The Liquids Policy

Most people are aware that there is a liquids policy in place for carry-on items but may not know all of the details. The TSA sometimes refers to their liquids policy with the term 3-1-1, meaning each item must be 3.4 ounces or less, fit in one quart-sized clear plastic bag and each passenger is allowed one bag. 

When packing for a trip and planning what liquids to pack in a carry-on, toiletries are one of the obvious considerations. But there are things that are considered liquids that are often overlooked. Foods like peanut butter, honey and jelly are considered liquids and can’t be packed in a carry-on if they are over 3.4 ounces. While on a trip people will buy a jar of honey, jelly hot sauce or similar item as a souvenir and not think about the fact that it needs to be packed in a checked bag. The same goes for items like snow globes. When packing items for a carry-on bag it is important to examine each item and evaluate whether it is suitable to be packed; you should do this not only flying out, but on your return trip as well. 

There are exceptions to the liquids rule for things like medications, medically necessary liquids and infant milk or formula. Ice packs are also allowed to keep medically necessary liquids cool. Before screening simply inform the TSA officer that you have infant formula, breast milk or medically necessary liquids and/or medications and they will facilitate screening your items. 


Can I Bring _____? 

Some items can be obvious in whether or not they are allowed in a carry-on bag. But there are some items that might be surprising. Hiking poles, cast iron cookware, golf clubs, corkscrews and tools (like screwdrivers) longer than 7 inches are all examples of items that are prohibited in carry-on bags that people may not be aware of. 

So how do you know what can be packed in a carry-on bag? TSA’s “What Can I Bring?” tool is an in-depth list of items and details whether they can be packed in carry-on or checked bags. And if you have an item in question that is not on the list, there are several outlets through which to reach out to TSA with your question. 

It is important to note that some items are completely prohibited, even in checked bags. This includes items like bear spray, fireworks and spray paint, among others. Airlines may have additional restrictions (for example, some airlines do not allow pepper spray, even in checked bags). 

One final note is the importance of packing items with lithium-ion batteries in your carry-on bag and not in your checked bag due to risks of overheating. This may sound counter-intuitive to have the potentially hazardous item in the cabin, but this is so that crews can recognize and respond to issues with overheating batteries. They are trained for this. Items that contain these types of batteries include vapes and e-cigarettes and personal electronics like cellphones, laptops and tablets.


Disabilities, Medical Conditions and TSA Cares

Travelers that have medication, medical devices, disabilities or other medical conditions may have concerns about going through security. On their website, TSA has an entire page with information pertaining to travelers with medical conditions or disabilities as well as those traveling with medications or medical devices. The sections cover specific topics like bandages and dressings, prosthesis, ostomies, service animals, mobility disabilities, mobility aids, insulin pumps, implants, specific disabilities like blindness and deafness, non-visible disabilities and more. Each section informs the traveler what the process for going through TSA will look like and how to best proceed. 

Another valuable service TSA offers is TSA Cares. You can request the assistance of a TSA Passenger Support Specialist (PSS) when you go through the security checkpoint. A PSS is a TSA officer who has had special training on how to assist and communicate with passengers who have disabilities or medical conditions, or who need additional screening assistance. There is a form that you fill out with your flight information and the type of assistance you need. TSA is there not only to keep passengers safe through security screening, but also to assist passengers with the process.  


Security Screening at AVL 

In March of 2023, the TSA replaced AVL’s x-ray units with new screening devices that utilize Computed Tomography (CT) technology. These units are the latest technology in security screening and allow TSA agents to have a 3D view of items in bags. These 3D images can be viewed and rotated 360 degrees, which allows TSA agents to thoroughly analyze the contents of bags. These new machines will not only offer better imaging but will also expedite the screening process. 

How do the machines help the process move quicker? One of the passenger benefits of these machines is the fact that you don’t have to remove liquids, food or electronics from your carry-on bag. The entire bag goes through the scanner and the advanced technology helps cut down on bag checks, which keeps the line moving. 

One note is that all carry-on bags must go in a tray to go through the machine. And the openings of the machines are slightly smaller than the traditional x-ray units, so they may be unable to accommodate larger items. 


Don’t Sweat It 

As you can see, going through TSA security doesn’t need to be an ordeal. As long as you pack mindfully, arrive on time and have your needed documents, you will be able to go through TSA like a pro.  The TSA website is an excellent source of information, and TSA is there to answer any questions you may have about any step of the security screening process.