TSA expects high volumes through New Year’s Day

Interior view of Seattle-Tacoma Airport terminal.
Photo Credit: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

As the winter holiday travel season approaches, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is gearing up for increased passenger volumes and busier airport security checkpoints.

TSA Administrator David Pekoske assures travelers that the agency is well-prepared to handle the surge, attributing their success to teamwork, meticulous planning, and innovative checkpoint technologies.

Record-Breaking Thanksgiving

TSA’s readiness for the holiday season is supported by recent achievements. During last month’s 12-day Thanksgiving holiday period, TSA screened nearly 30 million passengers.

This set a new record for the most passengers screened in a single day—more than 2.9 million on November 26.

Anticipating Holiday Rush

The official end-of-year holiday travel period kicks off on Thursday, December 21, and extends through Tuesday, January 2.

TSA projects that the busiest days will be Thursday, December 21, Friday, December 29, and Monday, January 1, with an estimated 6% increase in daily passenger screenings compared to 2022.

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Last year’s busiest day saw TSA screening nearly 2.4 million passengers on December 29.

A TSA checkpoint at an international airport terminal.
Michael Ball, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Top Tips for Smooth Travel

As passengers prepare for holiday journeys, TSA offers essential tips to ensure seamless travel through the heightened security measures:

  1. Pack Smart from the Start:
    • Begin packing with an empty bag to reduce the risk of carrying prohibited items through security.
    • Check the TSA website or text @AskTSA to confirm if an item is prohibited.
    • Adhere to the 3.4-ounce liquids rule limitation for items that can spill, spray, spread, pump, or pour.
  2. Early Arrival is Key:
    • Arrive at least two hours before your scheduled flight to accommodate parking, rental car returns, public transit or rideshare use, and security checks.
  3. ID Matters:
    • Have an acceptable form of identification ready in the screening lane.
    • Consider upgrading your ID to a REAL ID for compliance with new regulations starting May 7, 2025.
    • Experience the streamlined identity verification process with TSA’s advanced Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) units.
  4. Gifts and Security:
    • Use easily opened gift bags or gift boxes with removable lids when traveling with gifts.
    • Fully wrapped gifts may need to be opened for inspection if necessary.
    • Consider placing unwrapped gifts in checked bags.
  1. Firearms Travel Protocol:
    • Declare firearms at the airline ticket counter, ensuring they are unloaded and securely packed in checked baggage.
  2. Embrace New Screening Technology:
    • Be aware of airports using Computed Tomography (CT) scanners, allowing 3-D imaging of carry-on items.
    • Passengers in lanes with CT units may enjoy expedited screening without removing 3-1-1 liquids or laptops.
  3. TSA PreCheck for Expedited Screening:
    • Enroll in TSA PreCheck for faster checkpoint screening, costing as little as $78 for a five-year membership.
    • TSA PreCheck members typically experience wait times of less than five minutes at security checkpoints.
  1. Request Passenger Support in Advance:
    • Travelers with disabilities or medical conditions can call TSA Cares helpline at 855-787-2227 72 hours before travel for assistance and information.
  2. Connect with TSA via Text or Social Media:
    • Receive real-time assistance by texting questions to #275-872 (“AskTSA”) or through @AskTSA on X or Facebook Messenger.
    • Additional support is available through the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673.
  3. Follow TSO Guidance:
  • Pay attention to TSA officers (TSOs) for directions at security checkpoints.
  • Follow guidance from Customs and Border Protection officers upon returning to the United States.

By heeding these top tips, travelers can navigate the winter holiday travel season with ease, ensuring a smooth journey through bustling airports and contributing to a positive and secure travel experience.

TSA’s commitment to efficiency, innovation, and passenger safety aligns seamlessly with the cooperative efforts of holiday travelers. Safe travels!

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By Lewis Dwyer 5 Min Read
5 Min Read
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