TSA prepares operations for peak summer travel demand

National Press Release
Tuesday, May 25, 2021

WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) continues to ramp up and refine operations for expected increased passenger travel volumes in advance of the Memorial Day holiday weekend and throughout the summer months. 

“As we head into a summer where we hope to see a tremendous reemergence of domestic travel and the economic prosperity that travel brings, I’d like to highlight the incredible work of the men and women of TSA, who have been working on the front lines throughout the challenging pandemic,” said Secretary Mayorkas.  “I also want to commend our industry partners with whom we have a tremendous working relationship. We are all in this together to make sure that the American public can travel across the country safely and securely.”

“As passenger volumes continue to rise, TSA is ready for their return to airports across the country, equipped with enhanced airport security checkpoints, over 46,000 highly-trained security professionals, and valuable partnerships with stakeholders and industry, all to ensure a secure and seamless travel experience,” said Darby LaJoye, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the TSA Administrator. “For those passengers returning to travel for the first time since 2019, be aware that some processes at the checkpoint have changed and some, like removing your shoes, remain in place. Additionally, during high volume months, travelers should plan to arrive early at the airport to complete the airport screening process and arrive timely at their departure gate.”  

Secretary Mayorkas and Darby LaJoye were joined by Nicholas E. Calio, President & CEO of Airlines for America; Kevin Burke, President & CEO of Airports Council International – North America; George Novak, CEO of National Air Carrier Association; Roger Dow, CEO of U.S. Travel Association; and Joel Bacon, Executive Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for the American Association of Airport Executives. During the event, they outlined key changes implemented at airports across the country to ensure the safety and security of travelers. Specifically, Secretary Mayorkas highlighted DHS’s close partnership with industry stakeholders and LaJoye discussed changes already in place at airport screening checkpoints in response to COVID-19.

The summer travel season, which begins in late May and extends through and beyond Labor Day weekend, covers three full months and three major holidays.

Changes to airport screening checkpoints include the deployment of two new technologies, Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) and Computed Tomography (CT). Since the pandemic, TSA deployed these systems to checkpoints and modified screening procedures in an effort to reduce physical contact. TSA deployed 501 CAT units to 88 airports and 323 CT units to 141 airports nationwide. The modified CAT unit allows passengers to scan their own ID to complete the identity verification process and eliminate the need to hand the credential to a TSA officer. The CT units provide TSA officers the ability to review a 3D image of passengers’ bags and reduce the need to search the bag’s contents. Passengers screened in security lanes with CT units do not need to remove their 3-1-1 bag or electronics. In addition, TSA installed acrylic barriers throughout its checkpoints nationwide.

For those who choose to travel this summer, follow these five simple tips to get through the TSA checkpoint quickly and efficiently.

Tip 1: Wear a face mask. Face masks remain mandatory for employees and passengers, regardless of vaccination status, throughout all domestic transportation modes, including airport security screening checkpoints. Since the implementation of the face mask mandate for travelers on Feb 2, there has been near-total voluntary compliance throughout the entire transportation system.

Tip 2: Pack smart; start with empty bags. Those airline passengers who begin packing for travel with empty bags are less likely to bring prohibited items through a TSA checkpoint. Technology and modifications help reduce the need for physical contact with TSA officers, but those who take time to come prepared for the TSA checkpoint are far more likely to avoid physical contact. Check for prohibited items by using the “What Can I Bring?” page on TSA.gov.

Tip 3: Consider other ways that might help avoid physical contact at the checkpoint. Prior to entering the line for the TSA checkpoint, take a few minutes to prepare. Place jewelry, keys and other pocketed items into your carry-on bag so they might be scanned with need for fewer bins at the conveyor belt. Have a valid ID card readily available and follow the liquids rule of 3.4 ounces or less, with the exception of hand sanitizer, which has a temporary 12-ounce limit in carry-on baggage.

Tip 4: Contact TSA for help if there are questions or concerns. Those who are preparing to travel and may have special circumstances, considerations or general questions about airport screening can get live assistance by tweeting questions and comments to @AskTSA or via Facebook Messenger, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST and weekends/holidays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST. You can also call the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673.

Tip 5: Enroll now in TSA PreCheck® to “Travel with Ease.” By enrolling in TSA PreCheck, airline passengers can avoid removing shoes, belts, liquids, food, laptops and light jackets at the TSA checkpoint. Most new enrollees receive their known traveler number within five days, and membership lasts for five years.  

TSA seeks to ensure a healthy and secure environment for employees and airline passengers. For additional information about TSA procedures during COVID-19 as part of our “Stay Healthy. Stay Secure” campaign, visit tsa.gov.

TSA Summer Travel Press Conference

May 25, 2021

Quote Sheet

Nicholas E. Calio, President and CEO, Airlines for America

“Over the past year, U.S. carriers have leaned into science at every turn and implemented multiple layers of protection to prioritize the health and well-being of all travelers and crewmembers. Today, we are thrilled that our airlines are putting planes back in the sky and adding new routes as more people are booking tickets, packing their bags and heading to the airport. There is an enormous amount of pent-up demand to travel. You simply cannot hug your grandchild, walk on the beach or shake hands over a business deal while sitting at your computer, staring at a screen. Americans want to get out and go, and U.S. airlines are ready to take off!”

Kevin Burke, President & CEO, Airports Council International – North America

“The spread of COVID-19 brought air travel around the world to a near stand-still, and the slow recovery of commercial aviation reinforces the importance of working together to nurture our industry back to health. For many passengers traveling this summer, it’s been more than a year since they’ve been to an airport.  The passenger journey is likely to look a little different than it did before.  Airports remain ready to welcome back passengers when they are ready to travel. Airports rely on their close partnerships with DHS, TSA, airlines, and other stakeholders as we work together to provide for the health, safety and security of the traveling public.”

George Novak, President & CEO, National Air Carrier Association

“As we have during the pandemic, we’re continuing our work to ensure the safest and most secure travel experience possible in close consultation with our partners at the CDC, TSA, DHS, and FAA. As more people are seeking to travel to vacation destinations and see friends and loved ones, there are going to be a lot more people in the travel environment this summer, so we ask for your patience and preparation as we all emerge from the grip of this pandemic.” 

Roger Dow, President & CEO, U.S. Travel Association

“Almost three times as many Americans plan to travel this summer than in 2020, and more than half of those will be taking their very first trip since the pandemic. It’s terrific that Americans can safely travel again, thanks to the remarkable scientific developments that now protect the public, coupled with the practices of America’s travel industry to ensure the health and safety of travelers and the travel workforce.”

Joel Bacon, Executive Vice President for Government & Public Affairs, American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE)

“Airport executives are proud of the steps we’ve taken together with our federal and industry partners to enhance public health and safety, including important upgrades at the airport, at the checkpoint, and aboard the aircraft,” said.  “The experience may look a little different as more and more travelers take to the skies this summer, so adding a little extra time and patience to the packing list can help get that long-overdue trip off on the right foot.  We’re eager to have you back and intent on making your trip healthy, safe, and efficient.”