Travelling with Unprocessed Film?

Travelling with Unprocessed Film?

If you’re travelling with unprocessed film - Polaroid or not, beware of new airport scanners as you pass through security.

Airports around the United States are installing new CT/CAT scanners into the security screening process, that all carry on luggage will pass through.
If unprocessed film passes through the scanners, the film will be completely fogged with a single scan.

With the new scanners, it’s absolutely necessary to ask about having your film hand-checked in order to prevent it from being fogged as you go through security.

Currently, only 15 units are deployed in various airports across the US, but TSA plans to have more than 145 units operating at airports by the end of the fiscal year.

“The system applies sophisticated algorithms for the detection of explosives and creates a 3-D image that can be viewed and rotated on three axes for thorough visual image analysis by a TSA officer. - Checkpoint CT technology should result in fewer bag checks. In the future, passengers may also be able to leave laptops and liquids in their carry-on bags.” (TSA, July 30, 2018)

Photo by American Airlines

In a video by Mercury News that summarizes the changes, you can see some of the 3D visuals that the TSA now can achieve with the CT scanners - which look very cool.

While the new scanners can damage your film, the previous x-ray scanners still had the potential of fogging unprocessed film.

In an article from, the TSA made a statement saying “Most x-ray machines used to screen carry-on bags should not damage undeveloped film under ASA\ISO 800. There are a limited number of screening checkpoints that use x-ray equipment that may damage undeveloped film.”

It has always been recommended that you ask security to hand-check film as you pass through security to avoid issues. This is very common and there should be no issues by doing so.

Traveling to #PhotoPlusExpo w/ #film? Watch out for these NEW machines at the airports. It’s a CAT Scan and will absolutely destroy any film in a second. The equivalent of putting your film through the old scanners about a thousand times. Lead bags won’t save you. The nice #TSA agents at #LAX had no problem with a handcheck and seemed to be informed that this is no joke.

A post shared by Freestyle Photo Supplies (@freestylephoto1) on Oct 18, 2019 at 8:43pm PDT

So the next time you plan on flying with film, it’s recommended that you have your film packed neatly in a container or in a clear plastic bag and request a hand inspection as you pass through security to avoid having your film ruined before you get to your destination.

- Taylor Sheppard

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Written By: Taylor Sheppard

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