TSA prepares Montanans for very busy summer air travel season

Local Press Release
Wednesday, June 23, 2021

BOZEMAN, Montana - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on Wednesday shared that current travel projections for the next three months at Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport and several other airports in Montana indicate this summer will likely equal if not surpass volumes seen in 2019, which was busiest on record for TSA operations.

“The American public is traveling again and Montana is proving to be an enormously popular destination. Visitors to our national parks and the lure of the great outdoors are certainly factors driving the increase in travelers we are seeing at our state’s airports,” said TSA Federal Security Director for Montana Kristen Simonds. “Pair this with new airlines offering service to new non-stop destinations and we are on track for screening a record number of people statewide. We want all Montana residents to be aware of what is happening and ensure that they come early and prepared to the security checkpoint when they travel.”

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 six days in June, TSA has screened more than 2 million travelers, setting new post-pandemic records.

Passengers screening volumes over the past few weeks at BZN have been as high as 134% greater than volumes seen in 2019 and are expected to continue at this level throughout the summer. At Missoula International Airport, passenger volumes stand at 96% of 2019 levels and Billings Logan International Airport is currently at 90% of 2019 volumes.

Below is a table with the busiest times and days at security checkpoints at four of Montana’s busiest airports.

Busiest times at the security checkpoint

Busiest days of the week

Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport

5 a.m. to 8 a.m.
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays

Billings Logan International Airport

5 a.m. to 7 a.m.
11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays

Glacier Park International Airport

4 a.m. to 7 a.m.
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays

Missoula International Airport

4 a.m. to 7 a.m.
11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays

These peak times 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 could exceed the capacity of the TSA security checkpoints at BZN and other Montana airports.

Additionally, airlines have increased the number of flights departing BZN and other Montana airports and 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 at least two hours prior to flight departure to allow for completion of every step of the travel process from curb to gate.

TSA has installed a computed tomography (CT) scanner at BZN 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. An officer 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. TSA also has a CT scanner installed in the security checkpoint in Billings.

Due to the recovery of air travel, TSA continues its efforts to hire security screening officers at Billings, Missoula and other airports statewide 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 at these airports $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.  In the “Search TSA jobs” box, enter “TSO” in the search box to the left and the name of the city in the “location” search box to the right.

TSA continues to operate with modified procedures as part of its “Stay Healthy. Stay Secure.” campaign. Travelers departing BZN and other airports 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:

Can of bear sprayStep 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. Any type of prohibited item in a carry-on slows down the screening process for everyone, leading to delays in 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. In addition, as an added benefit, this reduces the number of touchpoints among travelers.

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: Leave bear spray and camping fuel behind
Don’t let your enthusiasm for Montana’s outdoor activities result in your bringing bear spray, camping fuel or other items that are prohibited in carry-on and checked luggage. Not sure if you can travel with certain items? Review TSA’s travel advice website.

Step 5: 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.

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.