The Transportation Security Administration is expecting a record breaking number of flyers this upcoming Thanksgiving holiday travel period with more than 26.8 million passengers traveling through security screening checkpoints nationwide Nov. 22 through Dec. 2. TSA officials are prepared to process the volume of passengers at airport security checkpoints, working closely with airports and airlines to project numbers and peak periods.
“We expect record breaking travel volume this 2019 holiday season, following our busiest summer ever,” said TSA Acting Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell. “To plan for the season, partnerships with industry and stakeholders are critical to keep travelers moving safely and securely to holiday destinations. We want to ensure travelers are as best prepared as they can be.”
The busiest travel days leading up to Thanksgiving will be Nov. 27, the Wednesday before the holiday, with 2.7 million passengers and crew expected, and Dec. 1, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when more than 2.8 million travelers are expected to be flying home. On a typical weekday, TSA screens about 2.1 million passengers.
Through the TSA Airport Operations Center and in coordination with airport and airline partners, TSA monitors and maintains security operations at checkpoints nationwide. The center tracks daily screening operations, rapidly addresses any issues that arise, and deploys personnel, canine teams and technology where needed.
The best way to ensure a quick trip through the security screening process is to arrive early and be prepared. Passenger preparedness can have a significant impact on wait times at security checkpoints nationwide. Travelers are encouraged to allow time to park their cars or return rental cars, check their bags with their airline, and get their boarding passes, all before heading to the security checkpoint. TSA recommends getting to the terminal at least two hours early for domestic travel and at least three hours for international travel.
Additionally, travelers should keep these top five tips in mind:
- Pack smart. Prepare for security when packing and ensure that there are no prohibited items in baggage. As always, passengers can bring pies, cakes and other baked goods through the checkpoints; however, liquids such as eggnog and maple syrup, and gels such as preserves and jellies, should go into checked bags. Liquids in carry-on must follow the 3-1-1 liquids rule. Download the MyTSA app or use the “What can I bring?” tool on tsa.gov. This allows you to type in an item to find out if you can bring it in your carry-on bag, checked bag, either or neither.
- Renew your TSA Pre✓® membership. Individuals who obtained TSA Pre✓® five years ago are now able to renew their TSA Pre✓® membership online. Individuals who do not have TSA Pre✓® should enroll now to get TSA Pre✓® benefits, available at more than 200 U.S. airports, in time for their holiday travel. Travelers enrolled in a trusted traveler program, like TSA Pre✓®, do not need to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets. To find the trusted traveler program that best suits your travel needs, use the DHS trusted traveler comparison tool.
- Ask for passenger support. Travelers or families of passengers with disabilities and/or medical conditions may call the TSA Cares helpline toll free at 855-787-2227 at least 72 hours prior to flying with any questions about screening policies, procedures and to find out what to expect at the security checkpoint. TSA Cares also arranges assistance at the checkpoint.
- Ensure you have proper ID. Before heading to the airport, travelers should make sure they have an acceptable ID. Identity verification is an important step in the security screening process. Travelers are also reminded that REAL ID enforcement is less than 1 year away. Beginning October 1, 2020, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the United States. Review the list of acceptable identification.
- Have questions? Ask TSA. Travelers can get assistance in real time by submitting their questions and comments to @AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on weekends/holidays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET. Travelers can also reach the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673. Staff is available from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends/holidays; and an automated service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As a reminder, public awareness is key for supporting TSA’s security efforts. Travelers are encouraged to report suspicious activities, and remember, If You See Something, Say Something™. For additional information about TSA’s screening policies, visit tsa.gov.