WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The number of passengers expected to be screened at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints across the country this Thanksgiving season is expected to be extremely high. From Friday, November 16 through Monday, November 26, more than 25 million travelers, one of TSA’s busiest Thanksgivings on record, will be screened at airport checkpoints during the holiday travel period, nearly a 7 percent increase compared to last year.
TSA started to see a change in travel patterns for Thanksgiving last year and that is expected to continue this year. Instead of waiting for the day before Thanksgiving to travel, TSA started to see the increase in passenger volume start the Friday before Thanksgiving. That trend is expected to extend through the day before Thanksgiving, with passengers returning home on both the Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving.
The busiest travel days will still be the Tuesday and Wednesday leading up to Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is projected to break into TSA’s top 10 busiest days ever.
At Westchester County Airport, typically 2,200 to 2,500 passengers and crew are screened at the TSA checkpoint daily, but during the busy Thanksgiving holiday travel period, more than 3,000 individuals are expected to be screened daily, an increase of more than 20 percent, which is why travelers are encouraged to get to the airport early.
Meanwhile, in the immediate New York metropolitan area, John F. Kennedy International Airport will see the largest volume of passengers and crew coming through the airport checkpoints with more than 100,000 passengers per day expected in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. At Newark Liberty International Airport, up to 70,000 individuals will be screened daily during the holiday and at LaGuardia Airport, about 48,000 people will go through TSA checkpoints during the Thanksgiving travel period daily.
As Thanksgiving and the holiday travel seasons arrive, securing the travel of millions of passengers daily remains TSA’s top priority. It is well known that terrorists continue to focus on aviation, which is why TSA continues to focus on providing robust security screening. TSA takes many security measures, seen and unseen, while working closely with industry partners such as airlines and airports to enhance the traveling experience and ensure every passenger arrives to their destination safely.
The best way to ensure a quick trip through the security screening process is to prepare, prepare and prepare.
Passenger preparedness can have a significant impact on wait times at security checkpoints nationwide. To facilitate the security screening process, travelers should arrive at the airport early. It is recommended that travelers arrive two hours in advance of their domestic flights at Newark Liberty International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and at John F. Kennedy International Airport and three hours prior to an international flight 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 hit the restroom—all before heading to the security checkpoint.
Some helpful tools and travel tips for the airport security checkpoint include:
- Be ready when you enter the checkpoint line. Have an acceptable I.D. and boarding pass out of your wallet and ready to hand to the TSA officer. Once you get to the divesting tables, remove laptops, any electronics larger than a cell phone and the 3-1-1 compliant liquids bag, from carry-on baggage and place those items in a checkpoint bin.
- Be prepared to remove all electronics larger than a cell phone from your carry-on bags and place them in a bin with nothing above or underneath them.
- Tweet or Message AskTSA. Issues receiving TSA Pre✓® on your boarding pass? Unsure if an item is allowed through security? Get live assistance by tweeting your questions and comments to @AskTSA or via Facebook Messenger on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on weekends/holidays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. You can also reach the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673.
- Prepare for security when packing. Put large liquids, gels, creams and 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 “What Can I Bring?”. 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 placed in a bin for screening. This includes sun block and tanning sprays for those who are travelling to sunny destinations. Let the TSA officer know right away if you’re traveling with larger quantities of medically-necessary liquid medications or breast milk or formula for an infant as those can be screened separately.
- If you are carrying powdered substances, it is recommended (not mandatory) to remove them from your carry-on bag and place them in a bin for easy screening. Many powdered substances result in an alarm, which will result in a bag check. Removing the powder items is likely to reduce the need for a bag check at the checkpoint.
- 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.
- 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, wallets, ID, phones and loose change.
- The TSA Contact Center is available to answer questions by email and 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.
- Call TSA Cares. Travelers or families of passengers with disabilities and/or medical conditions may call the TSA Cares helpline toll free at 855-787-2227 at least 72 hours prior to flying with any questions about screening policies, procedures and to find out what to expect at the security checkpoint as well as arrange for assistance at the checkpoint.
- Apply for TSA Pre✓® or other trusted travel programs like Global Entry, NEXUS, or SENTRI. To find the trusted traveler program that best suits your travel needs, use the DHS trusted traveler comparison tool. These programs help improve security and provide a more convenient travel experience by affording travelers access to TSA Pre✓® expedited screening lanes. Travelers using the TSA Pre✓® lane do not need to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets at more than 180 U.S. airports. Find the program that best suits your travel needs. To get additional information about TSA Pre✓®, visit the frequently asked questions page on the TSA website.
As a reminder, public awareness is key for supporting TSA’s security efforts. Travelers are encouraged to report suspicious activities, and remember, If You See Something, Say Something™. For individuals traveling abroad, please check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Know Before You Go page to learn about required documentation.