SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) -53 million Americans plan to travel this Thanksgiving weekend. Every day this week, TSA officials plan to screen roughly 30,000 people and their luggage at Salt Lake City International Airport.
The airport is home to the nation’s newest technology.
In many cases, your checked bags can get to your airline before you get to your gate.
As flyers check their bags and are ready to jet to their destination, it’s Transportation Security Administration Supervisor Darwin Petersen’s job to make sure checked luggage gets to the plane safely.
“There is a way to track the bags anywhere along the process,” says Petersen.
The process includes overseeing more than 11 miles of belts continuously moving across the airport’s inline bagging system.
“Here at Salt Lake City International Airport, we have one of the latest and greatest state-of-the-art systems,” says Utah TSA Federal Security Director Matt Davis.
Cameras mark each twist and turn, filming and timing a bag’s entire route.
Petersen adds, “So the checked baggage will come through the X-ray machine, and then there will be a decision made that the bag needs to be looked at further.”
Gone are the days that employees would manually lift each bag and put them into the explosive detection systems. These machines take a 360-degree image of each suitcase that comes through.
If a suitcase gets cleared, it will go down this track marked “CL” and continue on to your flight. If something looks suspicious, it will head down the alarming belt marked “AL” for inspection by a TSA officer in a secure room.
“It is processed in a way that we go in and identify items that we need to be looked at,” says Petersen.
Davis says one way to set off alarms is by having a messy suitcase filled with electronics.
“Make sure you have your items kind of spread throughout the bags, cables rolled up.”
If you plan on bringing gifts with you, take this advice.
Petersen says, “Make sure that the gifts are not wrapped. That way, in case we need to go into the gifts, then we don’t have to destroy the wrapping paper.”
Officers say one surefire way to get your bag checked is by storing a firearm and ammo improperly, adding that each firearm needs to be in a locked, hard-sided case and declared with the airline upon check-in.
“You do not want the gun loaded,” says Davis. “You want to make sure the ammo is properly packaged and it needs to be in its original packaging or inside the magazine or clip.”
TSA officers say if a firearm is improperly stored or they can’t identify an alarming issue, they’ll have to call a passenger back, which may cause them to miss their flight.