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July 15, 2021

Prohibited items slowing down security lines at Philadelphia airport, TSA says

Officials urge travelers to check their carry-on items before leaving home

Travel TSA
TSA prohibited items Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

The Transportation Security Administration urges travelers to check their carry-on bags for prohibited items before arriving at Philadelphia International Airport.

An influx of prohibited items, including ammunition and liquids, are being confiscated at the Philadelphia International Airport's security checkpoints.

This is causing more bag checks and slower lines, the Transportation Security Administration says.

Oversized bottles of liquid, gels and aerosols that exceed the 3.4 fluid ounces limit — like shampoo, lotion, mouthwash and other toiletries — are among the most commonly confiscated items.

"Our TSA officers are seeing travelers arrive at the checkpoint with bottles of water, juice, energy drinks, coffee and soda," said Gerardo Spero, TSA's federal security director for the airport. "TSA officers will give passengers the choice to exit the security checkpoint to drink their beverages in the terminal or allow the officer to dispose of it."

There also has been a spike in ammunition being confiscated — everything from loose bullets to full ammunition boxes to loaded and empty gun magazines.

Spero attributed the increase in prohibited items to many people traveling for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

"Many people haven't traveled in a long time and they are getting forgetful about what can and cannot go into a carry-on bag," Spero said. "We are seeing an increase in the number of travelers who haven't flown recently, are new to air travel or have previously only flown once or twice a year." 

Air travel has not completely rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, though it is several times heavier than last summer, TSA data shows. The number of travelers passing through security checkpoints has hovered around 2 million each day in July. At the same point in 2019, that figure ranged from 2.1 million to 2.8 million. 

Spero urged travelers to check their carry-on items and pockets for prohibited items before coming to the airport.

The TSA website offers a searchable checklist for travelers to check before flying. There is also an app, MyTSA, that will lists prohibited items.

Passengers are allowed to carry liquids that are 3.4 ounces or less in a quart-sized bag. Larger products can be stored in checked bags.

Passengers who travel with ammunition need to pack it properly in a checked bag, Spero said. All forms of gun magazines and ammunition clips — loaded or empty — must be boxed in a hard-sided case. 

Small firearms ammunition and shotgun shells must be packed in their original boxes and declared to the airline.

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