NEW YORK – The number of passengers who flew during the spring set records, and the summer season is expected to be even busier with more travelers than ever predicted to pass through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints.
During the first five months of 2016, TSA officers screened 449 million travelers—57 million more than the same five-month period of the previous year.
The best way to ensure a quick trip through the security screening process is to prepare, prepare, prepare.
Passenger preparedness can have a significant impact on wait times at security checkpoints nationwide. To facilitate the security screening process, travelers should arrive early to New York City’s major airports—LaGuardia Airport, Newark-Liberty International Airport and JFK International Airport. It is recommended that travelers arrive at least two hours in advance of a domestic flight and three hours in advance of an international fight to ensure that they have time to park their cars or return rental cars, check their bags with their airline, get their boarding pass and make their way through the security screening process. Lines are likely at rental car counters, airline counters and checkpoints.
Travelers who arrive at checkpoints prepared for air travel can have an impact on lowering wait times at security checkpoints nationwide, just as individuals who come to the TSA checkpoint unprepared for a trip can have a negative impact on the time it takes to clear the checkpoint.
The best advice, other than arriving early, is to prepare. Prepare carry-on bags for coming through the checkpoint without any prohibited items inside. Follow the 3-1-1 regulation when carrying toiletries (up to 3.4 ounces in a 1-quart plastic bag and only one bag per person). Prepare by wearing easy-to-remove shoes. Prepare by emptying pockets before heading through the checkpoint screening equipment. Preparation is the key to getting through the checkpoint efficiently.
The most common mistake that passengers make is having items that are prohibited at a checkpoint—mainly oversize liquids and knives that are in their carry-on bags. Prohibited items detected at a checkpoint will slow a checkpoint line.
Travelers are strongly encouraged to follow these tips:
- Arrive early. The increase in travel volume has a wide-ranging effect. Consider incorporating additional time in your travel plans for traffic, parking, rental car returns and airline check-in. TSA recommends arriving up to two hours in advance of a domestic flight and three hours in advance of an international fight.
- Prepare for security when packing. Put large liquids, gels, creams, aerosols, into checked bags such as shampoo, conditioner, suntan lotion, shaving cream and anti-perspirant. If you’ve only got a carry-on bag, make sure all of your liquids follow the 3-1-1 rule outlined below. And it’s important to make sure that you’ve got no prohibited items in your luggage. Check TSA’s website feature “When I fly, can I bring my ________?” at tsa.gov. Type in an item and find out immediately if you can bring it in your carry-on bag, checked bag, either or neither.
- Follow the 3-1-1 liquids rule for your carry-on bag. When packing a carry-on bag, it is important to remember that liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes must be 3.4 ounces or less and all bottles must fit in a single quart size plastic bag and be placed in a bin for screening. This includes sun block and tanning sprays. Let the TSA officer know right away if you’re traveling with larger quantities of medically necessary liquid medications.
- Be ready when you enter the checkpoint line: Have an acceptable ID and boarding pass out of your wallet and ready to hand to the TSA officer. Once you get to the divesting tables, remove large electronics including laptops and the 3-1-1 compliant liquids bag, from carry-on baggage. Consider minimizing items that you wear to the airport such as bulky jewelry, scarves, hair accessories, large belts and other bulky items as these articles are likely to require additional screening. Remove all items from your pockets and put them into one of your carry-on bags so you won’t lose them.
- @AskTSA: Unsure if an item is allowed through the security checkpoint? Issues receiving TSA Pre✓® on your boarding pass? Travelers with questions about transportation security can contact a TSA employee for live assistance 365 days a year via Twitter. Tweet your questions and comments to @AskTSA from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends/holidays.
- TSA Cares: Travelers or families of passengers with disabilities and medical conditions may call the TSA Cares helpline toll free at 1-855-787-2227 with any questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint 72 hours prior to traveling. Injured service members and veterans including individuals associated with a wounded warrior program may contact TSA Cares to help facilitate the screening process.
- Check the bins: Equally important, travelers are reminded to check the bins when collecting all belongings after going through screening and before leaving the checkpoint screening area. Often, travelers leave behind laptops, cameras, phones and loose change.
- The TSA Contact Center is available to answer questions by phone at 1-866-289-9673. Staff is available from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends/holidays; and an automated service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Travelers may also want to sign up for an appointment to apply for TSA Pre✓®. TSA Pre✓® is an expedited screening program that allows travelers to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt, keep their laptop in its case and their 3-1-1 complaint liquids/gels bag in a carry-on, in select screening lanes. Those eligible for TSA Pre✓® can participate at more than 160 airports when traveling on any of the following participating airlines: Aeromexico, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, American Airlines, Cape Air, Delta Air Lines, Etihad Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Seaborne Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country, United Airlines, Virgin America and WestJet. TSA has also opened more than 350 application centers nationwide, allowing more U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the opportunity to participate in TSA Pre✓®. Interested travelers can pre-enroll at tsa.gov/tsa-precheck/apply.
TSA Pre✓® for U.S. Armed Forces: TSA Pre✓® expedited screening is free to all members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including those serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, Reserves and National Guard. Eligible members of the U.S. Armed Forces on personal or official travel do not need to travel in uniform to participate. Accompanying family members ages 12 and under can be processed through expedited screening as well. To participate, enter the Department of Defense (DOD) ID number in the known traveler number field when making flight reservations.