TSA prepares Alaskans for very busy summer air travel season

Local Press Release
Monday, June 14, 2021

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Officials with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on Monday shared that current travel projections for the next three months at airports nationwide as well as at Ted Stevens Anchorage International indicate this summer could approach volumes seen in 2019, which was busiest on record for TSA operations.

“As our country begins to look past the coronavirus pandemic, we are seeing a swift recovery of the air travel industry both nationally and locally. Not only will Alaskans travel in high numbers this summer, but those from the Lower 48 will be coming to explore our beautiful state,” said TSA Federal Security Director for Alaska Peter Duffy. “Pent up travel demand combined with the success of the nation’s vaccination efforts will require TSA Alaska to be ready for the increase. We have been preparing for this surge to ensure we can provide the best and most efficient security to all travelers departing our airports.”

Annually, the summer travel season ramps up starting with Memorial Day weekend. National passenger throughput trends over the past few months have shown sustained travel volumes. In the month of April and May, TSA screened at least 1 million departing travelers at airports nationwide every day and that number continues to steadily increase. On Friday, June 11 and Sunday, June 13, TSA screened more than 2 million travelers, a pandemic record. Passengers screening volumes at ANC are currently more than 85% of the volumes in 2019 and are expected to remain at this level throughout the summer.

The busiest times at the TSA security checkpoint at ANC are 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. to midnight. The busiest days to travel are Thursdays and Fridays as well as Sundays and Mondays.

These peaks are driven by the flight departure schedules determined by the airlines. When there is a concentrated number of flight departures over a short period of time, there will be intervals when the number of departing passengers may exceed the capacity of the TSA security checkpoint at ANC.

Additionally, airlines are flying larger aircraft on some routes increasing the number of travelers who need to be screened during peak times. This is why it is essential that travelers arrive two hours prior to flight departure to allow for completion of every step of the travel process from curb to gate.

When arriving at the security checkpoint at ANC, travelers can expect to see some new technologies in use. TSA is using Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) to scan a traveler’s photo identification, verify the authenticity of the credential and confirm flight status by comparing it against the Secure Flight database through an Internet connection. When CAT is in use, travelers do not need to show a boarding pass to the TSA officer.

TSA also has installed a computed tomography (CT) scanner to screen travelers’ carry-on luggage. The CT unit applies a sophisticated algorithm as it generates a 3-D image of the contents of the bag. A TSA officers can manipulate the 3-D X-ray image on screen to allow for a better view of the bag’s contents, ultimately reducing the number of bag checks that are required. In addition, travelers can leave everything in their carry-on bag, including electronics and food, when it is screened through a CT scanner.

Due to the recovery in air travel, TSA has expanded its efforts to hire security screening officers at ANC, throughout Alaska and nationwide to ensure checkpoint lanes are fully staffed to screen the ever- increasing number of travelers. As an incentive to join the agency, TSA will pay newly-hired TSOs $500 upon starting with the agency and $500 after one year of service with TSA. To qualify for the recruitment incentive, the employee must come onboard with TSA between now and September 30, 2021. To view open positions, visit https://jobs.tsa.gov.

Over the past several months, TSA has modified its procedures as part of its “Stay Healthy. Stay Secure.” campaign. Travelers departing ANC and airports across the country can expect to see:

  • All security officers wearing face masks and gloves during the screening process. Security officers will change their gloves after each screening position rotation, after a pat-down or upon a passenger’s request.
  • All travelers wearing a mask in the airport and at TSA airport screening checkpoints. The federal requirement to wear a mask has been extended until September 13, 2021. Face coverings need to cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides of the face without gaps. A TSA officer will ask travelers to briefly adjust their mask for ID verification purposes. Travelers without a mask may be denied entry, boarding, or continued transport. Failure to comply with the mask requirement can result in civil penalties.
  • Increased frequency and intensity of cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in the security checkpoint including bins. This is no substitute for practicing good hygiene while traveling. Travelers are encouraged to wash their hands before and after going through the checkpoint.

Here are some additional tips to remember during the summer travel season:

Step 1: Pack smart
Travelers should be aware of the contents of their carry-on bags and make sure they are not bringing prohibited items to the security checkpoint. To determine whether an item is allowed or prohibited in carry-on luggage, download the MyTSA app and use the “Can I Bring?” feature. By planning ahead, travelers can avoid a bag check and reduce the potential for cross-contamination. Another option is to contact @AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger to get answers to your travel questions.

Step 2: Secure items in your carry-on
When removing items from pockets such as phones, wallets, keys or loose change, secure them in their carry-on bags instead of placing them directly in bins, which are a common use item. This will prevent travelers from inadvertently leaving these important items behind at the security checkpoint.  

Step 3: Traveling with hand sanitizer
TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger, in carry-on bags. Passengers may also bring hand wipes of any size or quantity through security checkpoints.

Step 4: Enroll in TSA PreCheck® today
People can “Travel with Ease” and experience a smoother screening process by enrolling in TSA PreCheck®. Eligible travelers do not need to remove shoes, belts, light outerwear, laptops, electronics larger than a cell phone or travel-size liquids from carry-on luggage.

There is an enrollment center located at 3340 Arctic Boulevard, Suite104, in Anchorage. It is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. In May 2021, 97% of travelers eligible for TSA PreCheck waited five minutes or less to be screened at airports nationwide. Another benefit of the program is that children 12 and under are permitted to use the TSA PreCheck lane when traveling with an eligible parent or guardian on the same itinerary.