Montana Thanksgiving holiday travel outlook

Local Press Release
Thursday, November 21, 2019

BOZEMAN, Mont. - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced Thursday that it is prepared for a 3.6% increase in travelers departing Montana airports in the days leading up to and immediately following the Thanksgiving holiday.

At airports across the country, TSA projects it will screen a record breaking number of flyers this upcoming Thanksgiving holiday travel period. An estimated 26.8 million people will go through security checkpoints from Friday, Nov. 22 through Monday, Dec. 2. This is a 4% increase over 2018 Thanksgiving holiday travel volumes.

For the past few years, TSA nationally has noticed a marked change in Thanksgiving travel patterns and that trend is expected to continue this year. Instead of waiting for the day before Thanksgiving to travel, people are beginning their travels the week prior to Thanksgiving and many people have planned their return travel on the Sunday or Monday after Thanksgiving. 

The travel pattern in Montana is no different. The busiest days for Thanksgiving travel will be Friday, Nov. 22; Wednesday, Nov. 27; Sunday, Dec. 1; and Monday, Dec. 2.

Based on departing passenger projections developed in conjunction with all of the airlines that provide commercial air service in Montana, on the busiest days, Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport will see the greatest number of departing passengers with more than 2,000 people being screened through the checkpoint. That is a 9.2% increase over Thanksgiving 2018 volumes. Missoula International Airport will screen an average of 1,520 departing passengers on those same days. Billings International Airport will screen approximately 1,700 departing passengers a day during the same period. Glacier Park International Airport expects to screen about 1,000 passengers a day during the peak travel days around Thanksgiving.

So far in 2019, Montana’s airports have collectively seen an average increase of 10.7% in departing passengers over last year. Over the past two years, dating to 2017, Montana’s airports have experienced a 10% increase in the number of departing passengers screened.

To help travelers plan ahead, the busiest time blocks at TSA security checkpoints in Montana are projected to be:

  • 4:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.
  • 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

At all Montana airports, TSA opens airport security checkpoints no later than 4 a.m. TSA will ensure staff and security resources are in place to screen departing travelers. This will include utilizing overtime as needed to extend the shifts of checkpoint security staff to ensure passengers are screened as efficiently as possible.

Below are some helpful travel tips to make the security checkpoint experience go smoothly during the holidays – and throughout the year:

  • Arrive early. During the peak holiday travel rush, arrive at the airport at least two hours prior to your flight departure to ensure adequate time for every step of the airport travel process including being screened through the security checkpoint. By arriving early, you should arrive at your gate with time to spare.
  • Traveling with foods. Baked goods and other solid foods are allowed in carry-on luggage. This includes breads, cookies, candies and meats. However, jams, jellies, sauces, gravies or other liquids need to be in quantities of 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or less to travel in your carry-on. Any quantities larger than 3.4 ounces should be placed in checked baggage.
  • Use gift bags instead of wrapping paper. Wrapped items are screened just like any other item. If a wrapped item alarms the security screening technology in carry-on or checked luggage, a TSA officer may have to unwrap it to determine what the item is. Consider traveling with unwrapped items or placing them in a gift bag for easy access and resolution.
  • Dress for security screening. Simplify your experience by avoiding bulky jewelry, scarves, hair accessories and large belt buckles since these types of items are likely to require additional screening. Remember to remove all items from your pockets and secure them in your carry-on bag before being screened at the security checkpoint.
  • AskTSA on social media. Question about what you can bring through the security checkpoint? Tweet or Message AskTSA weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. MST and weekends and holidays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. MST.
  • Call TSA Cares. Travelers or families of travelers with disabilities and/or medical conditions may call the TSA Cares helpline toll free at 855-787-2227 with any questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint as well as to arrange for assistance at the checkpoint. It is recommended to call at least 72 hours prior to traveling to ensure TSA can provide the assistance that is needed.

As a reminder, public awareness is a critical element of our security efforts. Travelers are encouraged to report suspicious activities. Remember: “If You See Something, Say Something™.”