9-11 has changed almost everything about how we travel and what we take with us onto the plane when we do.
"I try to make sure there is no sharp objects, no cutting objects, no knives," says Brenda Reynolds waiting on her flight to Orlando from Tyler Pounds Regional Airport.
Tyler passenger Beth Adams says, "In my checked bag I put the things, your nail clippers, those items that you can't take on a carry-on."
But when Jon Zetterlund mistakenly packed a swiss army knife in a carry-on, he wasn't surprised when airport security confiscated it, but was shocked when this letter arrived a few weeks later. "I had been assessed a fine of $250 for bringing a weapon into the sterile environment of the airport," says Zetterlund.
It's all part of a stepped up safety plan by the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA. Jon is one of nearly ten thousand flyers fined in the past year for packing banned items. "Our intent is just to make sure that people who are a threat are dealt with accordingly. The, 'Oh, I forgot I had it' doesn't work with us anymore," says Lauren Stover with TSA. Stover says the fines range from $250 to $10,000 depending on the violation.
But the penalties are not automatic. "We take a lot of factors into consideration," says Stover. Like your attitude with screeners, whether you've tried to conceal the item, and how dangerous it is. Jon was fined because of the length of his blade but says he doesn't think he should've been a target at all. "I don't feel as though I had intent that would really go hand in hand with a fine." Stover says,
"Fines are imposed as a deterrent, that we can get people to think a little bit."
Are the fines working? The TSA intercepted more than 7 million items last year with fines in place.
That's up a million from the year before with no penalties. Security expert Eric Grasser says it's obvious. "Passengers are not getting the hint of what they can and can not bring to the airport" says Grasser.
If you do get "bagged" you should also be aware that it could cause problems on future flights! 7 On Your Side has learned your name and personal information may be added to a secret database. "Certain people get placed on a list that would require them to get additional screening every time they fly," says Stover. Airport security officials admit this list is off limits for security purposes. That has some outraged. Privacy expert Marcia Hoffman says it's important to know what information is maintained about you by the government. "You're not able to verify the accuracy of that information and change it when it's incorrect," says Hoffman. While its policies are sparking controversy, the TSA insists its one and only mission is to protect. "I do feel safe when I travel. More so today than 5 years ago," says Adams before her flight from Tyler to Arizona. "It's there to protect us. And you know if it's going to make everybody more secure then we have to just grin and bear it," says Reynolds awaiting her boarding call.
Tyler Pounds Regional Airport officials want to stress getting checking in at least 1 hour before take-off in case you there is a hold up at the security checkpoint.
Christine Nelson reporting. firstname.lastname@example.org