PORTLAND, Maine – The number of passengers flying through Portland International Jetport (PWM) and Bangor International Airport (BGR) are expected to continue rising throughout the summer travel season.
Nationwide Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers are screening nearly two million people daily, which is a significant increase from January 2021, and that rise is evident in Maine as well. In January PWM was averaging just under 800 people per day, currently TSA officers are screening more than 3,300 a day at PWM. BGR has gone from 218 per day in January to more than 1,400 people per day, which exceeds the passenger volume that TSA officers were screening at BGR pre-pandemic.
TSA is prepared to handle the increased travel volume this summer and the agency is committed to supporting a healthy and secure environment for airline passengers, TSA employees and airport personnel in Maine and nationwide. However, the checkpoint experience will look much different to passengers who have not flown since the start of the pandemic and individuals flying out of PWM and BGR should be prepared for those changes.
Everyone in the airport is required to wear a mask as prescribed by the federal mask mandate when they are in airports, bus and rail stations, and aboard passenger aircraft, public transportation, passenger railroads, and over-the-road buses operating on scheduled fixed-routes. This means that all travelers must be wearing a mask at TSA airport screening checkpoints and throughout the airport and during their flights. If a traveler does not have a mask, a TSA officer will offer a mask to that individual at the checkpoint.
“The checkpoint screening process looks different today than it did before the pandemic,” said Bob Allison, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Maine. “For starters, travelers should plan to give themselves plenty of time to check their bags and get through security screening. Upon arrival, travelers will see reminders to socially distance themselves from other travelers while in checkpoint lines. When they get to the travel document checking podium, they will see our TSA officers wearing masks and gloves. Most will be positioned behind new acrylic barriers to reduce exposure and close contact with passengers.”
When travelers approach the travel document checking podium, they will be asked to provide the officer with their ID and in some cases their boarding pass—electronic or paper. They also will be asked to remove their masks for a few seconds so that the officer can match the individual’s face to the photo on their ID. Prior to approaching the travel document check podium, passengers need to ensure they check in with their airline first.
As travelers place their items into bins along the conveyor belt, they will continue to see TSA officers in masks, gloves and potentially wearing face shields or standing behind an acrylic barrier offering guidance and answering questions.
TSA officers will be changing their gloves between each pat-down and between each bag search. Travelers may request that a TSA officer put on a new pair of gloves at any time. TSA officers also will be using a fresh swab for each passenger when testing for possible explosive material.
TSA employees will be conducting routine cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces and security screening equipment at the checkpoints. The airport is also performing additional cleaning of security checkpoints.
To reduce touchpoints, TSA recommends travelers place pocket items such as wallets, keys, lip balm, tissues and cell phones into their carry-on bags instead of putting items from their pockets directly into bins. This minimizes the placing of personal items in a bin that you might hold to your face such as lip balm, tissues and cell phones. It also reduces the chance that travelers will leave something behind in a bin.
Summer travelers can review TSA’s national press release on summer travel for simple tips to get through security checkpoints quickly and efficiently.
“TSA PreCheck membership is more valuable now than ever before because it reduces touchpoints during the pandemic and puts travelers in security lines that have fewer travelers and moves quicker, which encourages social distancing,” Allison added.
Based on anticipated summer travel trends in the months ahead, TSA has launched efforts to recruit TSA security officer positions throughout the state. Job postings for airports in Maine can be viewed here USAJOBS - Maine Announcements.