With football fans flooding Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on the day after the Super Bowl, TSA was ready.
TSA saw a surge in passenger loads on the traditional “get away” day, screening more than 81,000 LAX travelers and their carry-on luggage and over 48,000 checked bags. All this, and the highest recorded wait time at any point during the day was only 10 minutes.
Team LAX pulled together to make it a successful day. Overnight Sunday, TSA kept two security checkpoints open, requiring several employees to add an additional shift to their schedules.
“We modified shifts,” Supervisory TSA Officer Jermaine Silas said. “We started a half-hour earlier and explained to our officers that we needed them to support by adjusting their shifts. Just pre-planning, making sure we were in the places we needed to be, ready to go when things started rolling.”
It turned out to be a very successful day at LAX.
“I think because of all the support we had, it went very smoothly,” said Lead Officer Roberto Vargas. “It felt smooth and was like a normal day. We had a rotating schedule of 24 hours, and it was filled by everyone, so we had a lot of help.”
Planning for this day didn’t happen overnight.
“The planning actually started almost a year ago once we found out for sure the Super Bowl was going to be played here,” said LAX Federal Security Director Keith Jeffries. “We started working on a plan as it got closer, working specifically on just TSA matters associated with the Super Bowl that included how much staffing we needed over time, planning canine needs and making sure everybody leaving Los Angeles after the game had a positive experience.”
Jeffries said TSA didn’t prepare and provide successful security on its own. It took a lot of teamwork with other agencies.
“The key to any major security event is not about any one agency or entity,” Jeffries noted. “It’s about the relationships, which include our law enforcement and airport partners and even the folks who live here in Los Angeles. Everyone wants to make sure the event is a positive experience.”
TSA brought in explosives detection canine teams from around the country to provide an added layer of security on “get away” day. Robert Herold and his canine partner, Haver, flew from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to help make security run smoothly at LAX after the Super Bowl and around LA prior to the big game.
“Supporting the Super Bowl was a huge event,” said Herold. “It’s non-stop. It’s a marathon. We were here almost two weeks. The operation behind the scenes is unbelievable. So many moving parts.”
Herold called it “probably the best experience you can do.”
“You meet so many different people, so many handlers who have experience with or outside TSA; it’s just a completely different perspective,” he said. “I met 30 to 40 handlers who are now great friends, people I’ve never met, but we all had that mutual connection of loving dogs and working with dogs, and you bond really quick. It’s a really close-knit community.”
Silas made sure his team was prepared for the increased passenger loads after the Super Bowl.
“I made sure my team was well-informed, all of our deployments were as needed, engaged with stakeholders, [and] engaged around the airport to see where we could be used the best,” Silas explained.
Silas said being part of a Super Bowl that hadn’t been in LA since 1993 was a great experience. “It’s amazing to see all these fans come in and support their teams and keep them here safely.”
Jeffries felt it was a proud moment for TSA employees to participate in such an event, saying, “Anytime you get to participate in an event like this, it creates a certain amount of pride. It’s that behind the scenes work, the energy and enthusiasm that comes with protecting something as sacred as the Super Bowl.”
Jeffries was extremely pleased with how well everyone performed.
“We put together an excellent plan,” said Jeffries. “We communicated with all of our partners, and the plan went off without a hitch. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and got out safely, and we’ll continue to do the same whether LA hosts a Super Bowl or not. That’s the way we approach it even as passengers leave on any regular day of the week.”
By Don Wagner, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs