TSA Agents May Be Standing Behind Acrylic Barriers the Next Time You’re at the Airport

Barriers are already installed at Chicago O’Hare Airport, San Diego International Airport, and Las Vegas McCarren Airport.

TSA barrier at Reagan National Airport
TSA barrier at Reagan National Airport. Photo: Courtesy of TSA

Acrylic barriers between Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents and travelers are popping up at airports around the country as an additional layer of protection against the spread of COVID-19.

Major airports like Chicago O’Hare Airport, San Diego International Airport, and Las Vegas McCarren Airport have seen several of the protective acrylic barriers installed over the past week. More than 1,200 barriers will be installed at 37 different airports by early fall, The TSA announced.

TSA barriers at O'Hare Airport
TSA barriers at O'Hare Airport. Courtesy of TSA

“The ongoing installation of additional acrylic barriers adds a substantial layer of protection in our ongoing effort to ensure the health and safety of our workforce and airline passengers,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement. “As long as this virus remains a threat, TSA will continue to implement the measures necessary for containment, including acrylic barriers as well as technologies that reduce or eliminate physical contact.”

Prototypes of the barriers were developed at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in D.C. earlier this year. The prototypes were created to protect both travelers and TSA agents at travel document checking podiums, X-ray and secondary search areas, and at checked baggage drop-off locations. The barriers are booth-like, wrapping around the TSA checkpoint.

The barriers — which the TSA says are more effective than countertop plexiglass shields — are being used in addition to masks, gloves, and routine disinfecting. Additional barriers beyond the original 1,200 may be added in September.

As travelers pass through TSA checkpoints, they are required to wear a face mask, maintain social distancing and scan their own boarding passes. Food items must be placed in clear plastic bags for inspection. A few months into the pandemic, the TSA also updated procedures to allow passengers to bring up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer with them through the checkpoints.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. When in a new city, she's usually out to discover under-the-radar art, culture, and secondhand stores. No matter her location, you can find her on Twitter, on Instagram or at caileyrizzo.com.

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