Photo by Ronda Churchill for McCarran International Airport

TSA Expects Record-Breaking Holiday Travel Period: Here’s How You Can Help

The Sunday after Thanksgiving was the busiest travel day in TSA history. Over the Thanksgiving travel period, TSA screened more than 16 million checked bags. Typically, an average travel day would see TSA screen approximately 2.1 million passengers and crew, but in the busiest days of the Thanksgiving travel week, TSA screened more than a half million more passengers per day than usual.

Despite the volume, 99.8 percent of all passengers nationwide waited less than 30 minutes in a checkpoint line and 99.2 percent of passengers who were in a TSA Pre✓® lane waited less than 10 minutes in a security checkpoint line. Impressive statistics given the sheer volume of travelers and bags.

And now, the number of passengers expected to fly this end-of-year holiday is set to be record-breaking with millions of passengers and crew members traveling through security screening checkpoints nationwide. Travelers need to be well prepared and should aim to be at their departure airport in good time as hubs will be active and congested.

To help TSA focus on security and achieve similar wait times to those experienced over Thanksgiving, travelers can help by taking the following measures before they leave for the airport:

  • Where possible, check-in for a flight ahead of time, either on the air carrier’s website or mobile app, to allow even more time to get through security and relax at the gate.
  • Unpack your bag before you pack it – at home. By unpacking your bag fully and re-packing it before coming to the airport, travelers will avoid bringing items to the airport that are prohibited past the security checkpoint. This includes knives, power tools and tools more than seven inches in length; stun guns; martial arts weapons and more.
  • Make sure electronics are accessible. Travelers can organize their carry-on bag so electronics larger than a cell phone can be quickly and easily accessed when at the security checkpoint. All personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone should be placed in bins for X-ray screening with nothing on top or below, to allow for a clear X-ray image, similar to how laptops have been screened for several years.
  • Contact TSA to find out what can go in a checked or carry-on bag. Reach out to @AskTSA on social media. Questions about what can be carried through a security checkpoint can be answered if the question is tweeted to @AskTSA or sent via Facebook Messenger AskTSA weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET and weekends and holidays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET. Or visit www.tsa.gov any time of the day or night to access the comprehensive “What Can I Bring?” feature on the top right-hand corner of the web page.
  • Download the free MyTSA app. The best thing about it is the “Can I bring” feature. Type in an item and it lets you know immediately if you should pack it in a checked or carry-on bag. It also can let you know if there is an airport delay and whether TSA Pre✓® lanes are available.
  • Call TSA Cares. Travelers or families of travelers with disabilities and/or medical conditions may call the TSA Cares helpline toll free at 855-787-2227 with any questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint as well as to arrange for assistance at the checkpoint. It is recommended to call at least 72 hours prior to traveling.
  • Get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license if you have not already done so. From October 2020, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the United States. REAL ID-compliant cards are marked with a star in the upper portion of the card.

Safe travels and happy holidays!

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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