McGhee Tyson TSA agents: Don’t wrap holiday gifts

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — With the peak winter holiday travel season getting closer, Transportation Security Administration agents are reminding travelers to pack carefully in order to keep security lines shorter.

Mark Howell, the regional TSA spokesperson, said the McGhee Tyson airport added a fourth screening line, which has cut down the wait time for travelers.

He said though that no amount of time will truly be cut down unless travelers follow TSA rules when it comes to what items are allowed in carry-on luggage.

Wrapped gifts can slow down TSA line

“Something as simple as an over-sized liquid or a pocket knife in a bag is going to incrementally slow the line down over the course of a morning. So, we’re going to have to go through the options of getting rid of that item with the passenger and then having them rescreen,” Howell said.

During the gift-giving season, one of those items in a carry-on, or checked bag, is a wrapped gift.

Howell said TSA agents might have to unwrap the gift if they can’t see what’s inside on the scanner.

He said that the safest bet is to either use a gift bag or wait until you’ve reached your destination to wrap it.

Howell said that the number of firearms agents have found in carry-on luggage has increased in 2019, compared to last year.

In 2018, 16 firearms were “surrendered” to TSA at the McGhee Tyson Airport.

Most guns surrendered to TSA are loaded

So far in 2019, 25 firearms were surrendered.

Howell said that agents don’t confiscate prohibited items – the items are surrendered.

“About 80 to 90% of these guns are loaded, so it presents a safety concern at the checkpoint. Whenever we find one of those, we’re going to call our law enforcement partners in to remove it,” Howell said.

He said the penalties for bringing a firearm in a carry-on are hefty: unloaded firearms could result in a fine ranging from $2,050-$4,100; loaded firearms could result in a fine ranging from $4,100-$10,250; and even items like a BB gun or realistic gun replicas could result in fines ranging from $350-$2,050.

Howell and other TSA staff set up a display table Monday morning with items that were surrendered at McGhee Tyson over the year.

Items surrendered to TSA this year on display

There were a lot of knives ranging in different sizes, a pool cue stick, pepper spray, replica grenades, large liquid bottles and more.

Suzanne Skelton, a TSA agent at McGhee Tyson, said everyone should check the TSA prohibited item list before packing their bags.

She said there are some items that people might think are okay to pack in their carry-on luggage, such as small pocket knives, but are only allowed in checked bags.

Guns are allowed in checked luggage as long as the traveler has approval and the correct paperwork.

She said there are some items that might not be listed on the prohibited list, but in those cases, the final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.

TSA pre-check

Howell said another way to get through TSA lines quicker is to buy TSA pre-check.

He said it could make a great gift for friends or family members that are frequent flyers.

Howell also said that travelers should keep winter weather in mind.

He said people should continue to check their airlines for status updates.

Howell said this year travelers don’t need to worry about having a Real ID, but they will by next Christmas.

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