Super Bowl brings record-setting crowds through LAS, TSA security a success

Friday, February 16, 2024
Kansas City Chiefs fans go through TSA security at LAS after the Super Bowl. (Lorie Dankers photo)

It took overtime for the Kansas City Chiefs to beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII and overtime for TSA to handle the record-breaking crowds that came through Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) on “getaway day.”

TSA screened an all-time single-day high of 103,978 passengers and their carry-on luggage at LAS on Monday, breaking the previous record on October 29, 2023, by 569 travelers. Supervisory TSA Officer Justin Secrist said it took quite a bit of planning. However, in the end, security operations ran smoothly.

“It was getting all the overtime, the support we needed, but everybody came together and made sure we had the resources we needed to make it a success,” said Secrist, who kept watch over Checkpoint D. “Friday of last week, I planned, looking at my staffing, preparing and getting all my overtime, making sure I had the best plan I could with the personnel I had.”

Nevada FSD Karen Burke said TSA LAS had a great game plan. 

“TSA made good on its commitment to deliver efficient security operations and excellent customer service to all those who were screened at LAS on Monday,” said Burke. “The months of coordination and planning paid off. I am proud of what the TSA team accomplished and grateful for the support of all our transportation stakeholders and partners in making this record-setting day a success.”

Starting Sunday morning, TSA kept four of the five security checkpoints at LAS open 24 hours a day. At 3 a.m. on Monday, the fifth checkpoint opened and began screening travelers.

From left, Supervisory TSA Officer Justin Secrist, Lead Officer Jannia Maisonet, Supervisory Officer Jennifer Dray, and TSA Manager David Witt. (Lorie Dankers photo)
From left, Supervisory TSA Officer Justin Secrist, Lead Officer Jannia Maisonet, Supervisory Officer Jennifer Dray, and TSA Manager David Witt. (Lorie Dankers photo)

TSA LAS was able to keep the checkpoints open for extended hours thanks to the 77 officers deployed from 33 other airports across the country.

Lead TSA Officer Jannia Maisonet, whose home airport is Orlando International (MCO), made the 2,300-mile cross country trip to Vegas to support TSA’s Super Bowl efforts.

“It was very exciting,” exclaimed Maisonet, who worked 12-hour shifts on Monday and Tuesday. “I traveled with 10 of my coworkers from MCO.”

MCO had the most national deployment officers (NDOs) of any airport in Vegas for the big event.

Jennifer Dray, a supervisory officer from Miami International Airport, supervised many of the NDOs deployed to LAS and, like Maisonet, was excited to find out she was going to the Super Bowl.

“I was a little bit overwhelmed knowing so many people were going to come through this airport,” Dray noted. “This was my very first large event, although I’ve been to other airports.”

She credited Team LAS for making all the NDOs feel right at home with the same mission in mind for the large crowds. 

TSA canine team in action at LAS. (Lorie Dankers photo)
TSA canine team in action at LAS. (Lorie Dankers photo)

“It’s one passenger at a time, one bag at a time,” said Dray. “No shortcuts. Be professional and do the best job you possibly can.”

NDO Area Coordinator George Dechon, on detail, said the overarching goal of the National Deployment Force (NDF) in this case was to help LAS maximize its screening capacity.  

“High-draw special events, like the Super Bowl or Mardi Gras and others, often present airports with a substantial short-window surge in passenger volumes that can then significantly tax existing resources and, among other things, result in longer lines and wait times,” Dechon explained. “Supplementing screening operation resources with deployed NDF personnel serves as a force-multiplier for airports. It helps maintain efficient passenger volumes, curb wait times and assures optimal use of critical security screening processes.”

“It was wonderful to know you have this support,” Secrist added. “These guys are top-notch when they come in, and you know they’re going to knock it out of the park.”

TSA canine teams also lent a big helping hand, working in and around security checkpoints at both LAS terminals. That added layer of security made many travelers eligible for expedited screening.

In addition, TSA’s Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Service deployed Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams throughout the airport to protect the public.

TSA Manager David Witt kicked off his Monday and Tuesday shifts at 1 a.m. and was on the job for 12 hours, joining Secrist to make sure Checkpoint D was fully staffed and everything ran smoothly. Not only that, Witt helped his crew on the floor and ensured he was visible the entire time.

It was busy but an exciting time for Witt and the entire TSA team at LAS. 

This VIPR team hard at work at LAS. (Lorie Dankers photo)
This VIPR team hard at work at LAS. (Lorie Dankers photo)

“It’s pretty cool to finally have a Super Bowl here,” said Witt. “Our team handled it and didn’t notice the bump. We were fully staffed and ready for it.”

Burke said planning started before last year’s Super Bowl in Phoenix, and it was critical to have all hands on deck to screen the record-breaking crowds. She made sure to reward her officers for their commitment.

“I had a celebration for the entire employee workforce,” she said. “They were looking forward to it and said, ‘That’s a great reward.’”

Burke felt the Super Bowl was a bigger challenge than any event Las Vegas has ever hosted, and the city has hosted some big events, like Formula One racing and the greatest Consumer Electronics Show in the world.

“I just appreciate everybody’s support and help, particularly the TSA employees, whatever their role was, in helping make this a huge success. Thank you to every TSA employee and certainly the whole community.”

By Don Wagner, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs with significant contributions from Lorie Dankers