What Happens When You Check Your Bags at Charleston International Airport?

June 16, 2017, 10:26 am EST | Share:

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (BRODIE HART, WTAT-TV) — We are all familiar with security lines at the airport for our carry-on luggage, but what does that process look like for checked bags? FOX 24 got a behind the scene look at the TSA technology that is helping to keep flyers safe.

It’s a side of Charleston International Airport flyers never see. “The machines actually do the majority of screenings on the bags,” said TSA agent Candy Muckelvaney, pointing to one of eight screening machines.

More than 4,500 checked bags run through the heavy duty x-ray machines one floor below the airport terminal. TSA agent Candy Muckelvaney the says screeching alarms are just background noise.

“Our machine is designed to alarm on certain objects or items and when it does that, then we have to take a closer look.”

Agents take that closer look among the maze of conveyor belts and flowing luggage. Mark Howell with the TSA says they let the technology do most of the heavy lifting.

“They’re programmed with algorithms to look for different densities of items as well as shapes that we deem can be a threat on board an aircraft,” he said. “ The majority of the bags that come through and the machine will do work for us and we don’t have to do anything with it.”

Checked bags are scanned just like carry-ons before being given the green light. The only difference? The TSA may have to search your bag without you even around.

“You’ll have a notice of inspection that we went into your bag,” Howell said. “If you don’t have one of those in your bag, that means it went through the system without us even having to put our hands on it.”

It may be out of sight and out of mind for flyers, but the skies stay friendly, precisely because of these forever-tucked-away machines and the agents who run them.

“There also is potential threat in checked baggage,” Howell said. “That’s why we’re making sure everything that goes through and gets on board an aircraft is being screened thoroughly.”

Officials with the Charleston International Airport say they are planning to upgrade the current checked bag screening technology starting in the fall. The process would take 18 months and cost around $18 million.