TSA prepares for busy New Year’s winter travel

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Tuesday, December 19, 2023

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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is well-prepared to handle increased passenger traffic during the upcoming winter holiday travel season. Anticipating a busier year compared to the previous one, the official holiday travel period kicks off on Thursday, December 21 and extends through Tuesday, January 2. The busiest days are expected to be Thursday, December 21, Friday, December 29, and Monday, January 1, with projections of over 2.5 million passengers screened daily, marking a 6% rise from 2022. Notably, December 29 was the busiest day last year, with almost 2.4 million passengers screened by TSA.

During the recent 12-day Thanksgiving holiday period, TSA screened nearly 30 million passengers, setting a record for the highest number of passengers screened in a single day on November 26, exceeding 2.9 million passengers across national security checkpoints.

TSA Administrator David Pekoske expressed confidence in handling the holiday rush, attributing the agency’s success to teamwork, meticulous planning, and professional execution, involving both frontline staff and behind-the-scenes personnel. Collaboration with airports and airlines, as well as innovative checkpoint technologies, have contributed to enhanced security, efficiency, and passenger satisfaction.

Travelers are advised to keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Pack Smart: Begin packing with an empty bag to reduce the chances of carrying prohibited items through security. Items such as firearms, explosives, fireworks, flammables, knives, razors, and replica weapons are not allowed. Consult the TSA website or text @AskTSA to check if an item is prohibited. Liquids are subject to a 3.4-ounce limit, while solid foods like cakes are permissible but subject to screening.
  2. Arrive Early: Due to anticipated crowds, arrive at the airport at least two hours before your scheduled flight. This allows time for parking, returning rental cars, using public transit or rideshare services, checking bags, and undergoing security checks.
  3. Bring Valid Identification: Ensure you possess acceptable identification, preferably a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license. Beginning May 7, 2025, travelers aged 18 and older must have REAL ID-compliant ID for domestic flights. Identity verification is crucial, and some checkpoints may use Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) units, including CAT-2 with facial recognition capabilities.
  4. Unwrap Gifts: When traveling with gifts, use easily accessible gift bags or gift boxes with removable lids to facilitate inspection, if necessary. Wrapped gifts may need to be unwrapped by TSA officers.
  5. Firearms Transport: If traveling with firearms, they must be unloaded, properly packed in a hard-sided, locked case, and placed in checked baggage. Declare firearms at the airline ticket counter. Firearms are strictly prohibited in carry-on luggage and at security checkpoints.
  6. Be Aware of Screening Technology: Some airports have installed Computed Tomography (CT) scanners that allow 3-D bag imaging, eliminating the need to remove 3-1-1 liquids or laptops from carry-on bags. All travelers must place their items in bins for screening when using CT units.
  7. Utilize TSA PreCheck®: Consider enrolling in TSA PreCheck® for expedited checkpoint screening. It costs as little as $78 for a five-year membership and significantly reduces wait times. Children 12 and younger can join family members in PreCheck lanes.
  8. Request Passenger Support: Travelers with disabilities or medical conditions can call the TSA Cares helpline at least 72 hours before travel for assistance and information on screening procedures.
  9. Contact TSA for Assistance: Get real-time assistance by texting questions to #275-872 (“AskTSA”) or reaching out through @AskTSA on social media. TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673 is also available for inquiries.
  10. Follow Instructions: Listen to instructions from TSA officers and other airport personnel. Pay attention to new technologies and procedures, especially if traveling internationally and encountering Customs and Border Protection officers during re-entry to the United States. Baggage may need to be rescreened for domestic flights. Airport and airline staff can provide further guidance throughout your journey.

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