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I-Team Goes Behind The Scenes With TSA: What To Pack, What To Leave?

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Americans are traveling like they did before the pandemic began. There's little you can do to control crowded airports, but you can control what you pack.

The Transportation and Security Administration took I-Team's Ginger Allen into an undisclosed area at DFW International Airport for a behind the scenes look at how closely your personal items are inspected.

The airport scans 25,000 bags a day. Once you drop it off at the airline counter, it travels through 17 miles of conveyor belt to reach your flight.

But before that, it passes through a scanner that reads the baggage tag and the smart sensor decides which path your bag should take to get to the destination.

Then it passes through an X-ray machine which scans the bags for prohibited items.

Among the things not allowed are alcoholic beverages over 140 proof or 70% ABV, lighters, and flammable items like butane gas or any fuel, cooking spray or fertilizers. To find out what is and isn't allowed, the TSA has an online list that can help.

TSA agents hand search the luggage with contents the x-ray cannot identify. "We are looking for at large globs or large groupings of food-like items," said Jason Smith, Deputy Assistant Federal Security Director.

"But because we can't identify it, that's why it came into the [inspection] room."

He said that items that typically need further scrutiny include tools, large amounts of jewelry clumped together, trophies, and even bunches of cosmetics. Food also often sends a bag to the inspection room as the x-ray sometimes has trouble identifying it.

Every time an agent opens the bag, they must put in a stamped note inside the bag informing the passenger that it was opened.

The agents often see unique​ and suspicious items. Sometimes they encounter bags filled with cash, cell phones, or bank cards. The TSA cannot seize items, but it is required to alert the authorities if it finds a suspicious item.

Travelers are allowed to carry guns in checked-in luggage, but they must be packed correctly. Gun must be unloaded and in a hard-sided container and should have no loose ammunition in the bag.

The TSA said if you are carrying gifts this holiday season, keep them unwrapped. During the holidays, the amount of luggage goes up about 20%.

And with the amount of people traveling this year expected to be higher than last year, TSA said passengers need to arrive at least two hours ahead of time before domestic flights and at least three hours before traveling internationally.

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