TSA Expects Record Summer Travel Season with 4 Percent Uptick in Airport Crowds

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is preparing for what is likely to be the agency’s busiest travel season ever, as 263 million passengers and crew are projected to pass through security checkpoints nationwide from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend – Thursday, May 23, through Tuesday, September 3.

TSA expects to screen over 4% or 10 million more passengers than last summer and will likely set new records for the highest number of passengers and crew screened in a single day and single week. During the same period last year, TSA screened 250,918,233 passengers and crew, which included nine of the top 10 busiest weeks in its history during the summer season.

“This summer we’re expecting to screen over 2.7 million travelers on peak days,” said TSA Acting Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell. “Our dedicated transportation security officers, inspectors, air marshals, and support personnel are working around the clock to ensure traveler security during this record breaking travel season.”

TSA is working closely with airline and airport partners to maintain efficient operations. To support the summer surge, TSA has increased airport security staffing levels by more than 2,000 officers to meet operational demands; provided a 20% increase in overtime funds to local TSA leadership to allow greater scheduling flexibility during the busiest peak travel periods; and deployed additional passenger screening canine teams.

Passengers are encouraged to enroll in TSA Pre® or another DHS trusted traveler program such as Global Entry. These programs allow passengers to speed through security without removing shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets. In April 2019, 93% of TSA Pre® passengers waited less than 5 minutes in line. Many individuals who apply directly through the TSA Pre® application program are approved several days after completing the in-person appointment and receive their Known Traveler Number online.

TSA continues to deploy new technologies and explore new ways to increase efficiency and security effectiveness, including at airports where capacity is limited. Depending on the departing airport, travelers may see or experience:

  • Automated screening lanes: TSA has installed more than 170 new bin and belt systems at 16 airports to enhance carry-on bag processing, with more lanes being added. These lanes automate many functions of bag processing, allowing as many as five individuals to place their items in trays simultaneously and submit them for screening.
  • Computed tomography: CT, which is the most technically advanced carry-on baggage screening technology available today, provides TSA the ability to rapidly and accurately identify prohibited items. Travelers who go through lanes equipped with this technology will not be required to remove their laptops. TSA is focused on testing, procuring, and deploying CT systems in airports as soon as possible.
  • Credential authentication technology: This technology verifies and validates a passenger’s flight reservation and security screening status in near-real time. It detects IDs that are fraudulent, expired, and/or show evidence of tampering. These units are deployed at 14 airports, with more units planned for purchase and deployment in FY20.

“Passengers can help by arriving early and prepared for the security screening process, packing carry-on bags so they can be easily screened, and ensuring that neither they nor their bags contain prohibited items,” said Cogswell.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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