TSA expects record-breaking end-of-year holiday travel season, urges travelers from Maine’s airports to get their REAL ID sooner, rather than later

Local Press Release
Tuesday, December 10, 2019

PORTLAND – The number of passengers expected to fly this holiday season is expected to be record-breaking, with millions of passengers and crew members traveling through security screening checkpoints nationwide. Travelers flying from Portland International Jetport need to be well-prepared and travelers are advised to arrive at the security checkpoint two hours before their domestic flight and three hours prior to their international flight, as the airport will be active and congested.

Typically, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screens approximately 2,900 passengers on an average day at Portland. But on the busiest days leading up to and immediately after Christmas and New Year’s, TSA expects to screen upwards of 3,100 passengers from Portland, which is why it is important for passengers to arrive early and 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.

TSA checkpoints across the state will be fully staffed and TSA officers will continue to deploy layers of security, both seen and unseen, to ensure the safety of the traveling public.

The TSA Modernization Act, enacted by Congress, requires TSA to limit the use of TSA Pre✓® lanes to only individuals with “known traveler numbers.” As such, passengers who are not enrolled in TSA Pre✓® are less likely to have a TSA Pre✓® indication on their boarding pass and will not receive the benefits of the program.

While TSA concentrates on aviation security, passengers can assist by coming to the airport prepared. Below are some travel tips to make the security checkpoint experience go smoothly during the holidays – and throughout the year:

  • Unpack your bag before you pack it – at home. By unpacking your bag fully and re-packing it before coming to the airport, travelers will avoid bringing items to the airport that are prohibited past the security checkpoint. This includes knives, power tools and tools more than seven inches in length; stun guns; martial arts weapons and more. 
  • Make sure electronics are accessible. Travelers can organize their carry-on bag so electronics larger than a cell phone can be quickly and easily accessed when at the security checkpoint. All personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone should be placed in bins for X-ray screening with nothing on top or below, to allow for a clear X-ray image, similar to how laptops have been screened for several years.
  • Contact TSA to find out what can go in a checked or carry-on bag. Reach out to @AskTSA on social media. Questions about what can be carried through a security checkpoint can be answered if the question is tweeted to @AskTSA or sent via Facebook Messenger AskTSA weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET and weekends and holidays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET. Or visit www.tsa.gov any time of the day or night to access the “What Can I Bring?” feature on the top right-hand corner of the web page.
  • Download the free MyTSA app. The best thing about it is the “Can I bring” feature. Type in an item and it lets you know immediately if you should pack it in a checked or carry-on bag. It also can let you know if there is an airport delay and whether TSA Pre✓® lanes are available.
  • 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.

This December is also the perfect time to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license because beginning October of  2020, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the United States. REAL ID-compliant cards are marked with a star in the upper portion of the card. 

Travelers are encouraged to get their REAL ID before the end of the year, because next year people are more likely to be caught up in the rush to get a REAL ID that could result in long lines at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices.

“With the holiday season fast approaching, many of us will be taking flights to visit family and friends,” said Secretary Matthew Dunlap. “As of October 2020, you will not be able to board a flight with a regular Maine license, and we’re encouraging everyone to plan ahead so your traditions can continue next year, uninterrupted.”

Maine residents have the option to upgrade to a REAL ID-compliant license or stick with a standard driver’s license when they renew or get a new license at a Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles office. However, a standard credential will not be valid to board a domestic flight or to access secure federal facilities, including military bases and some federal offices.

Maine REAL ID Example

To get the REAL ID-compliant license, individuals will need to visit their local Bureau of Motor Vehicles office in person and bring certain documents to prove U.S. citizenship and Maine residency. Required documents include one proof of identity, one proof of legal presence, two proofs of Maine residency, a social security card and a current driver’s license if you are applying to exchange one issued by another U.S. state. The state has a REAL ID document checklist posted online that also includes a list of motor vehicle office locations, hours and phone numbers to help residents get their REAL IDs.

TSA has posted signs at airports nationwide to remind people that REAL ID-compliant licenses or other acceptable forms of ID, such as a valid passport, federal government PIV card or U.S. military ID, will be mandatory for air travel beginning on October 1, 2020. Critically important, on October 1, 2020, individuals who are unable to verify their identity will not be permitted to enter the TSA checkpoint and will not be allowed to fly.

For more information and details about how to obtain a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card in Maine, visit http://www.Maine.gov/realid.