ROANOKE, Va. - The number of passengers expected to fly this summer is expected to be the highest in years with 263 million passengers and crew projected to pass through security checkpoints nationwide from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend – Thursday, May 23, through Tuesday, September 3.
TSA expects to screen over 4% or 10 million more passengers than last summer and will likely set new records for the highest number of passengers and crew screened in a single day and single week. During the same period last year, TSA screened more than 253 million passengers and crew, which included nine of the top 10 busiest weeks in its history during the summer season.
Area residents should expect it to be busy this summer at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport as well. Last summer from the Thursday before Memorial Day through the Tuesday after Labor Day, TSA officers at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport screened 109,869 passengers and crew members. This summer that number is likely to be surpassed, which is a very good reason for travelers to get to the airport 90 minutes prior to their flight.
The best way to ensure an efficient trip through the security screening process is to arrive prepared because there will be more travelers than usual traversing through the Roanoke region as well as other airports across the country.
Travelers are urged to come ready to go through the screening process and to listen to the guidance that the TSA officers are providing at the checkpoint. TSA officers will be very focused on the security of travelers and in doing so, they will offer helpful guidance to passengers as they proceed through the screening process.
Travelers should arrive early to the airport. It is recommended that passengers arrive 90 minutes in advance of a domestic flight to ensure that they have ample time to account for traffic, parking and navigating through the airport. It is advisable to check-in for a flight ahead of time, either on the air carrier’s website or mobile app, to allow even more time to get through security and relax at the gate.
Part of security preparedness is knowing why TSA has certain protocols in place.
It is helpful to wear slip-on shoes so that they can be easily slipped off prior to going through the checkpoint scanner and slipped back on afterward. TSA’s protocols require that passengers remove their shoes to be X-ray screened because in 2001 a terrorist attempted to detonate an explosive device in his shoes. Thus, shoes come off to allow TSA’s technology to identify whether there is an explosive device concealed inside.
TSA requires travelers to place large liquids, gels, creams and aerosols, into checked bags such as shampoo, conditioner, suntan lotion, and shaving cream. If you’ve only got a carry-on bag, make sure all of your liquids follow the 3-1-1 rule, which limits the size of liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes to 3.4 ounces or less and have all of those bottles fit in a single quart-size plastic bag and placed in a bin for screening. This includes sun screen and tanning sprays for summer travelers headed to sunny locations. TSA’s protocol limits the size of liquids in carry-on bags because in 2009, a terrorist plot to detonate larger quantities of liquid explosives carried on board aircraft was thwarted, just a few weeks before the plot was launched, resulting in a limit on the amount of liquids allowed to be carried onto airplanes.
Travelers should be ready to remove laptops and personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone from carry-on bags. Why? Because TSA is aware that terrorists have the technical capability to artfully conceal explosive devices inside electronics. Removing laptops and electronic devices and placing them in a checkpoint bin with nothing above or below each item, allows TSA to get a clear X-ray image of those items to ensure that nothing dangerous has been artfully concealed inside.
Some additional security-focused travel tips to keep in mind:
- 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 if flying on more than 60 participating airlines departing 200 U.S. airports. To learn more about TSA Pre✓® visit the TSA Pre✓® page or the TSA Pre✓® Frequently Asked Questions page. For more information on the Department of Homeland Security’s four Trusted Traveler programs – including Global Entry and NEXUS– all of which provide TSA Pre✓® eligibility, visit DHS.gov.
- 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 on 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 call the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673 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 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.
- Travelers who typically use their driver’s license as ID at a checkpoint, should take the time this summer to upgrade to a REAL ID license at their local department of motor vehicles because starting October 1, 2020, only a REAL ID compliant license or other valid IDs will be accepted at TSA checkpoints.