PORTLAND, Oregon - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials on Wednesday shared that current travel projections for the summer months at Portland International Airport (PDX) indicate this summer could equal volumes seen in 2019, which was busiest on record for TSA operations. They also reminded those who are planning to travel with a firearm how to do so properly to avoid potential criminal and civil penalties.
At three airports in Oregon, TSA has screened more travelers during the month of July 2021 than during the same period 2019. This includes Redmond Municipal Airport (RDM) which is at 108% of 2019 volumes; Mahlon Sweet Field (EUG) in Eugene at 106%; and Medford International Airport (MFR) at 101%. Currently, TSA at PDX is screening 81% of July 2019 volumes.
“The arrival of summer in the beautiful Pacific Northwest is marked by long days, warm temperatures and a busy airport. After a slow travel period last summer due to the pandemic, operations are returning to normal levels and we are anticipating a very busy summer at PDX,” said Stephen Taber, TSA Federal Security Director for Oregon. “Over the past several months, we have been planning for the return of air travel to ensure that we are prepared to provide the best security in the most efficient way. We can’t stress enough that anyone departing PDX and other Oregon airports need to arrive early and be prepared for the security checkpoint screening process.”
Summer travel outlook
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. That number continued to steadily increase in June when TSA screened more than 2 million travelers on multiple days. This past weekend, TSA set a new post-pandemic record when more than 2.2 million people were screened nationwide.
Passenger screening volumes over the past few weeks at PDX have remained steady and should continue this trend for the remainder of the summer. The busiest times at the TSA security checkpoints at PDX are 4:30 a.m. - 7 a.m., 9:30 a.m. - 11 a.m., and 10:00 p.m. - 11:00pm. The busiest days to travel are Thursdays, 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 travelers could exceed the capacity of the TSA security checkpoints at PDX.
Additionally, new airlines are providing service out of PDX and legacy airlines have increased the number of departing flights. In addition, some 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 allow plenty of time and arrive prepared to allow for completion of every step of the travel process from curb to gate.
TSA readiness and hiring
Due to the recovery of air travel, TSA continues to recruit security screening officers to work at PDX 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 security screening officers $500 upon starting with the agency and another $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 “Portland, OR” in the “location” search box to the right.
To assist with the application and hiring process, TSA will hold a virtual recruitment event on Friday, July 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Interested applicants will learn more about working for TSA and get assistance with the application process. To participate, please text “PDX” to 95495 for the link to the session.
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. 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 person, in carry-on bags. Travelers 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 outdoor activities result in your bringing bear spray, camping fuel
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.
There are two enrollment centers in the local area including one at 10350 N. Vancouver Way in Portland and another at 9013 NE Highway 99 in Vancouver, Wash. In June 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.
Increase in the number of firearms brought to the security checkpoints in Oregon
As of July 13, 2021, TSA officers have discovered 29 firearms in travelers’ carry-on luggage at the PDX security checkpoints since the beginning of the year and 24 of those have been loaded. The most recent firearm find was Saturday, July 10 and it was the seventh gun discovered this month. On Thursday, July 8, TSA officers discovered two firearms in a single day at PDX.
At this same point in 2020, TSA officers had discovered 15 firearms at PDX. When compared to this same point in 2019, TSA had discovered an eye-popping 42 firearms in carry-on luggage. Each of the firearms was discovered during the routine screening of carry-on property at airport security checkpoints and the vast majority of the firearms found were loaded with ammunition.
Below is a summary of TSA firearm discoveries at four of Oregon’s airports since 2018:
* Number of passenger screened was 39% of prior year’s total.
** Current through July 13, 2021.
Anytime a TSA officer spots the image of a handgun on the x-ray screen, TSA immediately stops all screening and notifies local airport law enforcement, which responds to the security checkpoint. A law enforcement officer takes control of the firearm and removes the traveler and the weapon from the checkpoint.
In addition to potential criminal citations, travelers face civil penalties of up to $10,000 for bringing firearms to the security checkpoint. TSA evaluates each firearm incident on a case-by-case basis, but factors considered when determining the civil penalty amount are whether the firearm was loaded and whether there was accessible ammunition. Even if a traveler has a concealed weapons permit, firearms are never permitted in carry-on luggage.
How to travel with a firearm on a commercial aircraft
TSA and airport officials want travelers to know that firearms can be transported on a commercial aircraft only if they are unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case and placed in checked baggage. Ammunition should be placed in its original packaging and secured in the same case as the firearm. Any type of replica firearm or firearm parts are also prohibited in carry-on baggage and must be transported in checked luggage.
At the airport during the check-in process, a traveler needs to go to the airline ticket counter to declare the firearm, ammunition and any firearm parts. Prior to traveling, travelers are encouraged to check gun laws and regulations at their destination to ensure they are in compliance with local and state laws. TSA also recommends travelers check with their airline prior to their flight to ensure they comply with any airline-specific requirements.
Individuals who violate rules regarding traveling with firearms will have Trusted Traveler status and TSA PreCheck expedited screening benefits revoked for a period of time. The duration of the disqualification will depend upon the seriousness of the offense and if there is a repeated history of violations.
TSA has additional traveler information specifically related to the transportation of firearms and ammunition.