- Özgür Töre
From December 22 to December 30, will be the busiest days as Americans travel. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) anticipates airport security checkpoints nationwide will be busier this holiday travel season compared to last year. Travel volumes are expected to be close to pre-pandemic levels.
“During the Thanksgiving travel period, we saw the highest throughput volume since 2019, and we expect that trend to continue over the upcoming holiday travel period,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske.
“We are prepared for the increased volume and expect to meet our wait time standards of 30 minutes or less in standard lanes and 10 minutes or less in TSA PreCheck® lanes. However, there may be some situations where the capacity of a checkpoint is exceeded."
Additionally, to provide a higher level of assistance for travelers with questions about airport security screening procedures, airline passengers may now send a text using any mobile device to “AskTSA” (275-872). A virtual assistant is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For more complicated questions, AskTSA staff are available daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST. Passengers may still reach out to AskTSA (@AskTSA) on Twitter or Facebook Messenger with questions and comments.
Top 10 tips in mind while traveling
1. Do not attempt to bring a firearm through a TSA checkpoint; doing so compromises the safety and security of other passengers and our officers in the checkpoint. Passengers who do attempt to bring a firearm through a checkpoint can expect to receive a civil penalty (fines may be as high as $15,000) and lose eligibility for TSA PreCheck. Additionally, local law enforcement will be called and because these passengers may present additional risk beyond the firearm, they will receive enhanced screening.
2. Beyond firearms, there are other items that are not permitted in the checkpoint. These include explosives, flammables, knives, razors and replica weapons. To see if an item is prohibited, check the TSA website under “What Can I Bring?” Prepare for security when packing for your trip and be aware of what can go in carry-on or checked bags to ensure there are no prohibited items. If you can spill it, spray it, spread it, pump it or pour it, then it is subject to the 3.4-ounce limitation. As always, passengers may bring solid foods such as cakes and other baked goods through the TSA checkpoint.
3. Ensure gifts are unwrapped and can be inspected. TSA encourages those traveling with gifts this holiday season to use gift bags that can be easily opened or gift boxes with lids that can be removed, so that contents can be inspected if required. Fully wrapped gifts may need to be opened if deemed necessary by a TSA officer. Instead, consider placing your unwrapped gifts in your checked bag.
4. Bring an acceptable ID. Before heading to the airport, travelers should make sure they have acceptable identification. At many airport checkpoints, the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) may ask you to insert your physical ID into one of our new Credential Authentication Technology units. Residents of Arizona, Colorado and Maryland may even use their Apple mobile device to store their ID in Apple Wallet and use their mobile device in certain TSA PreCheck lanes at participating airports.
5. Become a Trusted Traveler. The TSA PreCheck program offers expedited security screening at the airport, connecting low-risk passengers with a more efficient air travel experience. Just in time for the holidays, the enrollment fee dropped from $85 to $78 for a five-year membership. Online renewals cost just $70. TSA PreCheck members keep their shoes, belts and light jackets on and their laptops and liquids in their carry-on bags. Program member benefits include less physical contact, fewer items on the conveyor belt, and faster screening. Many new enrollees receive a known traveler number within three to five days.
6. Request 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 travel with any questions about screening procedures and to find out what to expect at the security checkpoint. TSA Cares also arranges assistance at the checkpoint for travelers with specific needs.
7. @AskTSA. Travelers can get assistance in real time by submitting their questions and comments to @AskTSA on Twitter, Facebook Messenger and via text message using any mobile device to “AskTSA” (275-872). An automated virtual assistant is available 24/7 while staff is available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST daily, including holidays and weekends. Travelers may 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.
8. If You See Something. Say Something®. Public awareness remains a key element in transportation security and we all play a role in keeping our communities safe. For additional information, please visit dhs.gov/see-something-say-something
9. Practice good cybersecurity habits. Effective cybersecurity habits are not limited to the home or office. Those who are traveling – whether domestically or internationally – should continue to practice safe online behaviors. Take proactive steps to secure internet-enabled devices. Practice the concept of stop, think and connect prior to connecting to any public wireless hotspot, such as those at airports, hotels and cafés. For more cybersecurity tips, visit cisa.gov.
10. Show gratitude to frontline workers. Thank a TSO, a flight attendant, a gate agent or someone who serves at the frontlines of transportation. TSOs complete about 200 hours of training to become certified and are committed to transportation security while ensuring all travelers are treated with respect and courtesy. Pack an extra dose of patience, especially during higher passenger volume travel days, and show gratitude to those who are working diligently to get everyone to their destinations safely.