Behind-the-scenes look at TSA's airport baggage system

Posted at 8:33 AM, Dec 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-27 08:33:03-05

DALLAS, Tx. — Have you ever wondered what happens to your checked luggage at the airport?

Here's a behind-the-scenes look inside the extensive airport baggage system, run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

But how do your bags make it onto the plane?

TSA showed us the part of the airport few people ever see, the vast system of conveyer belts and machines underground that moves all that luggage.

Jason Smith is one of the TSA supervisors in charge.

"Seven minutes. Seven minutes is the average time," he said. "These are the unsung heroes of TSA. You know, what we do down here is not so much a secret. It's just out of sight, out of mind."

In all there are 17 miles of conveyer belts underneath the Dallas Fort-Worth airport, winding their ways from the ticket counters upstairs, all the way to the planes on the tarmac.

Early on, every single bag gets x-rayed, which we can't show for security reasons, and in a second, a computer algorithm automatically determines if there's anything suspicious that needs to be checked further.

Someone a few miles away looks at each x-ray image and flags some bags to be searched by hand.

For each bag that's inspected, the TSA leaves a card that lets passengers know they went through their stuff.

The TSA's focus is on finding explosives.

Bag checks are just part of the process.

They also use specially trained dogs.

"We do have multiple tests, internal, quality control tests, that we go through, just like with different aspects of our screening procedures. We have to be right 100% of the time, and we have a really good record," Smith said.

It's an extensive system of security checks that passengers never see.