PHILADELPHIA – Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials expect travel out of Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) to see a return to near pre-pandemic passenger levels during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, which kicked off on Friday, Nov. 18, and runs through Sunday, Nov. 27.
Thanksgiving time has historically seen the biggest increase in the number of travelers coming through TSA security checkpoints during the year and this year is expected to see a continuation of that trend.
“Travelers should expect to see a very busy airport here in Philadelphia and across the country if they are traveling during the Thanksgiving timeframe,” said Gerardo Spero, TSA’s Federal Security Director for PHL Airport. “What I can tell you is that TSA is ready and prepared for the expected increase in the number of individuals planning to fly out of Philadelphia. Still, we ask that passengers be prepared to arrive early and pack some patience.”
Typically, the busiest travel days are the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday afterward. The highest travel day in TSA’s history was the Sunday after Thanksgiving of 2019 (pre-pandemic), when nearly 2.9 million individuals were screened at TSA security checkpoints nationwide.
TSA encourages travelers to get to the airport two hours before their domstic flight and be ready to go through the security screening process.
“Travelers can do their part in ensuring a smooth checkpoint experience by knowing what items should and should not be packed in a carry-on bag,” Spero said. “Travelers should focus on what can and cannot go in their carry-on bag before they leave for the airport.”
It is important to know what items should not be packed in a carry-on bag because if a carry-on bag triggers an alarm, it will require a TSA officer to open the bag to resolve the alarm. This means that a TSA officer will have to open the bag and go inside to identify what item may have caused the alarm. It usually takes about two or three minutes to conduct a bag search, which slows down the checkpoint.
Unsure if an item should be packed in a carry-on bag, checked bag, either or neither? Download the free myTSA app, which has a handy “What can I bring?” feature that allows travelers to type in the item to find out if it can fly. Or ask on Twitter or Facebook Messenger at @AskTSA.
Passengers often travel with food items that they want to contribute to the Thanksgiving meal, and it’s important to know which foods should go into a carry-on or checked bag. As always, passengers can bring solid foods such as pies, cakes and other baked goods through the checkpoints. However, gravy, cranberry sauce, wine, jam and preserves, should all go into a checked bag because they are not solids. If you can spill it, spray it, spread it, pump it or pour it, then it's not a solid and should be packed in a checked bag.
“Travelers can bring their Philly favorites such as soft pretzels, Tastykakes, cheesesteaks, hoagies and Goldenberg Peanut Chews through our checkpoints because they are all solids. But items like our famous water ice, cannolis and Hank’s root beer are considered liquids or spreadables and should be finished eating before you get to the checkpoint,” Spero said.
TSA officials also recommends that travelers take the time to visit the TSA web site, which has a lot of helpful information on preparing for a flight and letting individuals know what to expect.
To speed up the screening process, it is recommended that while waiting in a checkpoint line that travelers place items from their pockets such as wallets, keys, lip balm, tissues and cell phones into their carry-on bags to be screened instead of putting items from their pockets directly into bins. It also reduces the chance that travelers will leave something behind in a bin.
Travelers or families of passengers with disabilities and/or medical conditions can call the TSA Cares helpline toll free at 855-787-2227 at least 72 hours prior to flying with any questions about screening policies, procedures and to find out what to expect at the security checkpoint. TSA Cares also arranges assistance at the checkpoint. The TSA Cares phone lines are staffed weekdays from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET and on weekends/holidays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. TSA staff can explain the screening process for travelers requiring special accommodations or concerned about the security screening process.
Individuals who are planning to travel within the next several weeks should consider enrolling in TSA PreCheck®. The popular expedited screening program allows travelers to leave on their shoes, jackets, belts and enables them to keep their electronics and 3-1-1 bags in their carry-on bags. It typically takes less than a week to receive notification of acceptance into the program and the cost to enroll was recently reduced from $85 to $78. Enrollment is good for five years.