TSA Says Expect a Wait at Airport Security This Summer

Jun 19, 2018

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Although the Transportation Security Administration is hiring additional officers and canine units for what is looking like its busiest summer on record, the government body wants flyers to know that long security lines are inevitable during this peak travel season.

“Most summer days will seem like holiday time with the increase in passengers expected throughout the summer,” Bart Johnson, Federal Security Director for TSA, said at a press conference Monday at Albany International Airport (ALB).

TSA expects to screen 243 million people between Memorial Day and Labor Day 2018. That tops 2017’s total summer numbers, which clocked in at about 239 million people screened.

On the busiest summer travel days (like holiday weekends) the agency expects to process about 2.7 million passengers through security checkpoints, which would match its all-time record for most passengers screened in one day set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2004.

And during the 2018 spring break travel season, the TSA said several US airports saw 3.77 million more passengers than  the same time period in 2017.

So the top tip the TSA is giving summer flyers? Get to the airport at least 90 minutes to two hours before your flight’s scheduled to takeoff, Johnson says. And plan to arrive up to three hours before an international flight. It’s an old rule of thumb that most experienced flyers (especially those with PreCheck) tend to brush off. But it might be time to put it back in practice again.

Even PreCheck flyers might not be guaranteed expedited security lines during the crush of summer travelers, thanks to a new policy that funnels passengers from regular security lines into TSA PreCheck lines if bomb-sniffing dogs have screened them. Even though this policy has been criticized by Congress, TSA says if it ends it could ensnare passengers in security lines for hours.

Fortunately, the TSA is trying to address the massive wave of expected summer travelers. In addition to hiring 1,600 more officers and 50 more bomb-sniffing dogs, the agency is adding things like 3D bag scanners, which allow officers to rotate the x-ray images and cuts down on hand searches of carry-ons. At least 35 of the 3D scanners will be installed in airports across the US this summer as part of a the TSA’s $7.7 billion requested budget.

Featured image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

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