A former travel security officer who discusses air travel on TikTok shared some little-known tips.
Caleb Harmon-Marshall said there were a lot of misconceptions about airport security.
He said he wanted people to understand their rights better, and not be so afraid of airport staff.
A former federal security officer has shared tips for going through screening at the airport that few people seem to be aware of.
Caleb Harmon-Marshall was a Transportation Security Administration agent for about eight years. He's now a travel influencer with 150,000 followers on TikTok, where he's better known as Harmony.
Harmon-Marshall told Business Insider that airport security was nothing to fear, and staff were first and foremost there to keep you safe.
He said that while working at the world's busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, he heard many of the same questions and repeatedly sorted out the same problems. So, he said, his main objective with his newsletter was to help people know and understand their rights.
"People think that the officers are mean, and they feel like their prisoners when they go through security," he said.
"And I just wanted to let passengers know that this is here for your safety, they're working for you, they're not against you."
Harmon-Marshall said he would read the terms and conditions posted by every airline and break them down for people who didn't have the time to sift through them.
There are a few main tips he said he thought travelers should be aware of, which seem to be little-known.
For starters, you can bring water, or any liquid, with you through airport security as long as it's frozen. This is confirmed on the TSA website, which says frozen liquid items are permitted "as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening."
"If frozen liquid items are partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet 3-1-1 liquids requirements," it reads.
Harmon-Marshall posted a TikTok about this a while back that amassed more than a million views, seemingly because so many people weren't aware of the information.
"If you freeze your water, you can take it past TSA," he said. "A lot of people, they'll get their own bottle, they'll put their water in there, they'll freeze it, and then they'll just thaw out, and they'll drink it as it thaws out."
He also said food was permitted, which some people didn't seem to know — spending excessive amounts on meals when through security.
"Why would you spend all your money on airport food?" Harmon-Marshall said. "It's very expensive to buy anything at the airport. Buy something before you go, take it with you, and you can even take it on the plane and eat it."
Passengers have other rights at the security screening that aren't widely known. For example, you don't have to go through the body scanner if you don't want to.
"You don't necessarily have to go through there if you don't feel comfortable," Harmon-Marshall said. "A lot of people feel like the radiation and all that kind of stuff can affect them. Pregnant women, they don't like going through it."
The radiation exposure is less than that of two minutes on a plane, but Harmon-Marshall said people were entitled not to use it. Instead, travelers can opt for a physical pat-down by a same-sex officer.
He said the same applied to the baggage X-ray. People with sensitive items that might be affected, such as camera film, could ask for them to be hand-checked, he said.
"They'll just take it and walk it over to the other side, and they'll check it by hand," Harmon-Marshall said.
He added that these rules were not overly publicized because they slowed down the screening process.
"So they don't really want that to be known," he said.
A common misconception Harmon-Marshall said he wanted to correct was what happens when passengers are running late, and their bags are gate-checked.
"They will take those bags and go through TSA, not knowing that they still have large liquids, gels, and aerosols," he said. "They think that since the airline counter told them that they can gate check their bag, that those items can still go past security when they can't."
The majority of items he saw getting thrown away by TSA were from these bags, he said.
"You can gate check, but you still can't take these things past security," he said.
Harmon-Marshall said that overall, it was important to be vigilant before and during airport security. He said never to wear headphones when going through the airport before security — especially since record amounts of firearms were found at security during 2023.
"Anyone off of the street can go into those spaces," he said. "You want to be very mindful of what's going on in your surroundings."
People complain that the process seems to change every time the go to the airport, but Harmon-Marshall said TSA agents were doing this on purpose as a safety precaution. He said it was vital that passengers listen and do what they're told.
"The key is to listen to that first officer that you see past the ID check; they're going to tell you what to do," he said.
"I know we tune them out because we're so focused on: 'I need to make sure I'm doing everything; I don't want to get yelled at.' But really take a moment. Just stop, listen to what that officer is saying, and then proceed."
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