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The TSA website gives a list of permitted items for the carry-on. However, they also mention that the final decision lies in the hand of the security agents. Is it possible to ask the TSA to "pre-approve" my item for carry-on luggage, before I check in for my flight (e.g., a few days before my flight)?

By "pre-approve" my item, I mean having my item pre-inspected prior to a flight and then brought onto the plane without further inspection (or at least not getting refused because the security changed their mind).

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  • Is this something that would definitely be approved if it went in checked baggage? Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 14:14
  • @DJClayworth yes, nothing exotic Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 17:10
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    Can you imagine the outcry if a "pre-approved" item turns out to be a weapon that is then used in an attack, or a dangerous item that causes a crash? And the screener from the day of the flight goes on TV: "I thought the item looked suspicious, and I didn't want to let it on the flight, but the TSA bureaucrats had pre-approved it so my concerns were ignored." Even if you think "it's all security theater", think of what bad theater that would be. Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 19:23
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    @NateEldredge it's easy to find some ways to mitigate the issue, eg a compromise could be not to throw away pre-approved items that turn out to be refused on the day of the flight. Also the pre-approval would be done by the same screeners, and not some random bureaucrats. I could easily give more ideas but anyway it seems the answer to my question is negative. I didn't mean to write a new policy, just be aware of what the current policies are to make sure I hadn't missed anything the day they throw away my laptop, microphone or massager thinking that this is a blunt item. Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 23:48
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    The TSA doesn't throw away prohibited carry-on items unless you relinquish them; you have the option of taking your stuff and leaving (e.g. to check the bag, put something in your car, find a place to mail your item, cancel your plane tickets and travel by another mode, give up on your trip, build a rocket ship and blast off to the moon, etc...) if you want to, though that may interfere with your travel plans. Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 3:21

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Unlikely.

The final decision whether an item is allowed rests with the staff on the ground and any pre-approval would overrule this policy. A pre-approval would also require the item to be inspected and than "sealed" so it cannot be modified or tampered with between the pre-approval and the actual flight.

I travel with two items that often get flagged: a measurement microphone and (strangely) a Rubik's Cube. I have repeatedly asked TSA officers on how best to handle this, but have got no coherent replies. TSA behavior is inconsistent: you take them out: you get yelled at. You don't take them out: you get yelled at. Same of telling them up front: sometimes the appreciated it and sometimes they get annoyed and you get yelled at.

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  • The yelling or not yelling was my experience pre-TSA. So nothing has really changed.
    – Peter M
    Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 14:14
  • Thanks. My bag with simply laptop, charger, massager, keyboard and microphone often gets flagged but I've never been yelled at so far. Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 0:28
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    "yelled at" here means "given a stern talking to about what I did wrong". Heck, I once got yelled at for carrying a stick deodorant which according to the TSA (and any other agent) is perfectly fine. However this security officer decided otherwise. I got a stern talking to about how this must be go in the zip lock bag (which it doesn't) and that it was too big (which it wasn't). I offered to just throw it away (to get on with life), but she insisted on more lecturing and then still let me keep it.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 13:34
  • There is even disagreement between different agents in the same line. I have been chided for taking out / not taking out something, following instructions by another agent twenty seconds earlier. They each make it up as they feel.
    – Aganju
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 21:11

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