On a regular day, TSA at Georgia’s Augusta Regional Airport (AGS) screens about 800 passengers. On the typical busiest day of the week, traveler volume is around 1,000.
Then, there’s Masters Week!
Tens of thousands of golf fanatics from around the world traveled to Augusta this past weekend to watch top golfers compete in the biggest tournament on the pro tour and to play a little golf themselves. And TSA was right in the middle of the frenzy.
During Masters Week, passenger loads skyrocketed.
“Normally, we have 14 flights going out during the week; Friday [April 8], we had 31 flights,” AGS TSA Manager Cora Gauthreaux said. “And they went all over. We had flights to Boston, Austin, Chicago, Philadelphia, [and] Miami.”
That’s in addition to the normal direct flights from AGS to Atlanta, Charlotte and Dallas-Fort Worth.
It’s quite an adjustment for TSA officers at AGS – one, because this was the first Masters with full attendance since 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, and AGS is working with nearly a dozen new TSA officers who experienced the Masters for the first time.
Augusta Regional is a smaller airport with only two screening lanes and a single checked baggage screening machine.
“We prepared [the officers], letting them know it’s a really special event and that we expected people from all over the world to come in,” said Gauthreaux. “Having only two lanes is a challenge. Having one baggage machine to screen luggage is a challenge. We had to staff our officers more than we normally would. Our part-time officers, who work 24 hours a week, worked 32 to 40 hours.”
Gauthreaux said planning began four to six months ago and was a large, joint partnership between TSA, the entire airport, the airport administration and the airlines.
Fortunately, AGS got a longer baggage screening machine a few years ago, making life easier for officers screening the extra golf bags coming in, and TSA officers and canine teams from Atlanta came to offer their help with passenger and bag screening during Masters Week.
“It’s indescribable the amount of people we processed,” said Officer Deanna Newburn. “If people show up, we can process them, and we do it pretty efficiently. It just takes a little bit longer, and it’s non-stop. We feel more like an international airport. Bags can be overwhelming, but we are very, very grateful for the canines, and we’re grateful we were able to borrow them.”
With all the craziness and revelry, Newburn said it was important for officers to “pack our patience.”
“We have to be caffeinated,” she joked. “You have to come in here with the mindset that there’s a job to be done, and we just do it. You prepare yourself. We all know our schedules get adjusted during Masters Week. I’m generally off Saturdays and Sundays, but this Sunday, I worked the day before Masters Monday [the busiest travel day when those who attended the Masters head home].”
Despite the heavy passenger loads and the extra work, both Gauthreaux and Newburn strongly believe it was a good feeling being part of such a big event.
“People love to come to the Masters,” said Gauthreaux. “Being [a part of] TSA, we have a big role when they’re getting ready to fly home, to give them the security they want, and allow them to make it home safely to their loved ones. Teamwork is very important during Masters Week. No one person can do it alone. There’s a lot of preparation and communication for the officers to be as efficient as they can. The most important thing is communication and teamwork.”
“You’re constantly moving,” Newburn added. “When you leave here, you know you’ve been here. No one has to force you to go to bed. That’s for sure.”
By Don Wagner, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs