TSA prepared for busy holiday travel season

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National Press Release
Tuesday, November 24, 2015

WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) shared guidance today for passengers traveling during what the agency predicts will be the busiest travel season in its history. TSA screens nearly 2 million passengers daily; on the days leading up to Thanksgiving that number is expected to increase nearly 40 percent. The increased number of travelers is expected to stay consistent through the first week of December.

“As we approach the busy holiday travel season, I want to assure the public that TSA is taking every measure to protect the millions of air travelers in the coming weeks and to secure our aviation system,” said TSA Administrator Peter V. Neffenger. “The U.S. has the safest aviation security system in the world. TSA employs a robust security system involving multiple elements of security, both seen and unseen, to protect the traveling public.”

As with every year during the busy holiday season, passengers can expect to see some increase in wait times. TSA security checkpoints will be fully staffed nationwide during this time as TSA remains committed to processing passengers as efficiently as possible, while maintaining our primary focus on screening effectiveness.

Passengers enrolled in TSA Pre✓® may move more quickly through the screening lanes, as they are generally not required to remove their shoes, light outerwear, or belt and are permitted to keep laptops and 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels in their carry-on bag.

While TSA concentrates on aviation security, passengers can simplify their travel experience by arriving at the airport prepared. Passenger preparedness can have a significant impact on wait times at security checkpoints nationwide.

Here are some helpful travel tips to make the checkpoint experience go smoothly:

  • Arrive early to the airport to allow enough time to park, get your boarding pass, check your baggage, and go through the checkpoint. We recommend arriving at the airport at least two hours before your flight if you are not enrolled in TSA Pre✓®.
  • Know what is in your bag. Passengers who bring prohibited items to the checkpoint slow the screening process for themselves and everyone behind them. If in doubt about an item, use the “When I fly can I bring my…” tool to make sure your item is allowed in carry-on and/or checked baggage.
  • Pack your liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes in compliance with the 3-1-1 liquids rule. Passengers who violate this rule will also cause delays for themselves and everyone behind them.
  • Remove all items from your pockets and put the items into your carry-on bag or into a bin when you get to the checkpoint. You may save time if you remove everything from your pockets before you get to the checkpoint.
  • Avoid wearing large metal jewelry or clothing with large metal embellishments to reduce the possibility of alarming the screening machine.
  • Listen to the instructions that the TSA officers provide at the checkpoint. This helps the process move along efficiently.
  • You may bring wrapped gifts in your baggage; however, if a wrapped gift alarms, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns it may need to be unwrapped for additional screening. Consider using a gift bag instead of traditional wrapping paper to simplify the screening process of gifts.
  • Food items such as pies and cakes are permitted but may require further inspection. If you are not sure if a food item is considered a liquid or gel it is best to pack the item in your checked bag or ship it to your destination in advance. As a general rule of thumb, if you can spread it, spill it, spray it, pump it, or pour it, then it is usually in the category of a liquid or gel.
  • Travelers who have medical conditions or disabilities are encouraged to call the TSA Cares toll-free helpline in advance of their trip at 1-855-787-2227 to ask about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the checkpoint. It is recommended to call 72 hours in advance of the trip.

Public awareness is key for supporting TSA’s security efforts; therefore, TSA encourages travelers to remember “If You See Something, Say Something™.” For those traveling abroad, check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Know Before You Go page to learn about required documentation. 

For further information about TSA procedures, or to provide feedback or voice concerns, please call the TSA Contact Center at 1-866-289-9673 or send a message via Twitter to @AskTSA.