Holiday travel expected to reach near pre-pandemic volumes: TSA

Nation/world
People wait in the line to clear through the TSA checkpoint at Miami International Airport on Nov. 24, 2021, in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

People wait in the line to clear through the TSA checkpoint at Miami International Airport on Nov. 24, 2021, in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Transportation Security Administration announced Tuesday that its expects high travel volumes during the upcoming holidays, even reaching near pre-pandemic levels.

The agency screened just under 21 million travelers during the 10-day Thanksgiving holiday period, and anticipates a continued increase in demand into December, the TSA said in a news release.

“We see a strengthening in the airline travel industry toward pre-pandemic levels and our goal is to ensure you as the passenger have a safe and secure flight,” TSA administrator David Pekoske said in a written statement. “We work hard with our airport and airline partners to achieve this by ensuring screening operations meet the upcoming demand.”

Passengers planning to travel this holiday season are encouraged to sign up for TSA PreCheck to have a more convenient screening process and save time at the airport. Members of the program don’t have to remove shoes, belts, 3-1-1 liquids, laptops, or light jackets, the agency said.

In November, 94% of members of the precheck program waited less than 5 minutes, according to the TSA. Those who apply today will likely have their application accepted within five days, just in time for the holidays.

In order to keep screening lanes moving quickly throughout the holiday season, the TSA recommends travelers should:

  • Be flexible. Airports have rush hours too. If you want to avoid normal airport rush hours, which are normally between 5-7 a.m. or 4-6 p.m., consider booking your flight outside of those hours. Check all carriers, as they might have other flight options.
  • Pack smart by contacting TSA or visiting the What Can I Bring page before you leave your home.
  • Arrive early at the security checkpoint: two hours for domestic or three hours for international flights.
  • Follow signs and verbal direction provided by our Transportation Security Officers to help keep screening lanes moving.
  • Be patient and considerate of others. Officers are working as fast as they can and many travelers are flying for the first time since the pandemic began. In an effort to remind passengers to show gratitude and practice patience with others while traveling, TSA worked with its partners in the development of this Public Service Announcement about the Gift of Travel.
  • Join TSA PreCheck or renew your existing membership here before the holidays.

Firearms found at TSA airport security checkpoints continue to trend higher, with officers having stopped more than 5,000 firearms this year — a 20-year record — from making it into airports’ secure areas and passenger cabins of aircrafts. Over 85% of firearms are loaded, the TSA said.

“Since March 2020, TSA has dramatically modified airport security checkpoint operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to improve social distancing and reduce physical contact,” the agency said. “These operational modifications continue in an effort to contain the virus, including the new omicron variant.”

Changes include upgraded screening and credential authentication equipment at many airports to help reduce physical contact. The face mask requirement currently in place across the nation’s transportation systems is in effect through at least March 18, 2022, and aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.

And, as of Monday, travelers heading to the U.S. are required to show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of boarding their flight instead of three days prior.

In accordance with President Joe Biden’s executive order requiring federal employees to be vaccinated against COVID, 93% of the TSA workforce is in compliance with the vaccine and exemption requirements, according to the agency, with about 86% either partially or fully vaccinated.

Airline travelers can contact TSA directly before their flight with questions on airport screening. General questions can be answered by submitting a question directly to @AskTSA on Twitter and Facebook or by calling 866-289-9673.

For more information on traveling safely during the holiday season, visit www.tsa.gov.  

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