TSA at DEN prepared for high volume of travelers and busy Thanksgiving travel season

Local Press Release
Thursday, November 16, 2023

DENVER - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) anticipates a record number of people will be screened through the security checkpoints at Denver International Airport (DEN) this Thanksgiving holiday season.

The official Thanksgiving travel period will start on Friday, November 17 and continue through Tuesday, November 28. During this 12-day period, TSA at DEN projects it will screen more than 840,000 travelers. Nationwide, TSA projects it will screen 30 million travelers at airports nationwide during this same time.

“In preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, TSA has been working with our airport and airline partners at DEN to develop a comprehensive plan that ensures we will be ready for the increase in departing travelers who need to be screened. Our TSA officers will be working extended shifts and be joined by national TSA staffing resources so we can keep the security lanes open and operations going smoothly,” said TSA Federal Security Director for Colorado Larry Nau. “During peak travel times like this, we are especially grateful for passengers who arrive early and prepared.”

The three busiest days at DEN during the Thanksgiving travel period are projected to be the Tuesday and Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving. On Tuesday, November 21, TSA projects it will screen approximately 76,000 at DEN; on Wednesday, November 22, TSA projects it will screen 80,000 and on Sunday, November 26, TSA projects it will screen 86,000 travelers at DEN, making it the busiest day of the holiday travel period.

Nationally, TSA is projecting to screen 2.6 million passengers on Tuesday, Nov. 21; 2.7 million passengers on Wednesday, Nov. 22 and 2.9 million passengers on Sunday, Nov. 26, which will likely be the busiest travel day for TSA since its inception in 2001.

With sustained high passenger volumes locally and nationwide, TSA officials are encouraging travelers to plan ahead and be prepared every step of the air travel experience.

Security checkpoint info
The busiest times at DEN’s security checkpoints are 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Due to an increased number of flights that depart after 8 p.m., travelers can expect to encounter large numbers of travelers being screened during the evening hours.

TSA strives to get travelers through the general security screening process in less than 30 minutes and through TSA PreCheck screening in less than 10 minutes. Below is the type of screening that is available at each security checkpoint:

North Security Checkpoint - multiple screening options for travelers including:

  • Multiple dedicated TSA PreCheck® (only) lanes
  • Airline premium access lane / CLEAR lanes for TSA PreCheck-eligible travelers
  • Disability and functional needs access lane

South Security Checkpoint

  • All lanes general screening only
  • CLEAR lanes for general screening travelers

A Bridge Security Checkpoint (open limited hours – generally in the morning through early afternoon)

  • All lanes general screening only

There will be days when additional screening options may be made available at some checkpoints including a limited number of TSA PreCheck screening lanes at the South Checkpoint. However, this availability will be based on staffing and the number of travelers projected to depart DEN on any given day. TSA will consistently offer TSA PreCheck screening at the North Security Checkpoint.

Five things travelers can do today to be prepared for Thanksgiving travel
Download your Colorado digital ID. Plan now to use your Colorado digital driver license or photo ID, which can be downloaded at no cost to your mobile phone and use it for identity verification in the security checkpoint. Recently, the Colorado Department of Revenue (DOR) made the Colorado digital ID available for download to Google Wallet. It is also available for download to Apple Wallet. Coloradans who have downloaded their digital ID can use it for identity verification in the TSA PreCheck® lanes at the North Security Checkpoint, in lieu of handing over their physical photo ID to the TSA officer. 

Confirm your Known Traveler Number (KTN) in your airline reservation. Make sure your KTN and correct date of birth are in your airline reservation so you will be eligible for TSA PreCheck screening. There are more than 90 airlines that participate in TSA Precheck and TSA offers the TSA PreCheck experience at every airport nationwide. Children 12 and can use the TSA PreCheck lane when traveling with an eligible parent or guardian on the same itinerary. This holiday season, teenagers ages 13-17 can accompany TSA PreCheck-enrolled parents or guardians through TSA PreCheck screening when traveling on the same reservation and when the TSA PreCheck indicator appears on the teen’s boarding pass.

Unpack your bag before you pack it. To avoid bringing prohibited items in carry-on luggage, start with an empty bag or suitcase. If you aren’t sure how to travel with an item, download the MyTSA app and use the “What Can I Bring?” feature. Another option is to snap a picture of an item and send it to @AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger for real-time assistance. Travelers can also send a question by texting “Travel” to AskTSA (275-872).

Make a plan for traveling with holiday foods. Most foods can be carried through the TSA checkpoint, but there are some items that will need to be transported in checked baggage.

Here’s some food for thought: if it’s a solid item, then it can go through a checkpoint in a carry-on. However, if you can spread it, spill it, pump it or pour it - and it’s larger than 3.4 ounces (100 ml) -  then it should travel in a checked bag.

Food items often need some additional security screening, so TSA recommends placing those items in a clear plastic bag or other container when packing them at home and then removing those items from your carry-on bag and placing them in a bin for screening at the checkpoint. 

Here are examples of the most commonly asked questions about which food items are permissible through a checkpoint and which ones need to be placed in checked baggage.

Foods that can be carried through a TSA checkpointFoods that can be carried through a TSA checkpoint

  • Baked goods. Pies, breads, cakes, cookies, brownies and other sweet treats. 
  • Meats. Ham, turkey, chicken, steak. Frozen, cooked or uncooked.                    
  • Stuffing. Cooked, uncooked, in a box or in a bag.
  • Casseroles. Dishes like Mac ‘n Cheese can be prepared and ready to be warmed at your destination.
  • Fresh vegetables. Potatoes, yams, broccoli, green beans, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, beets, radishes, carrots, squash and greens. 
  • Fresh fruit. Apples, pears, pineapple, lemons, limes, cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and bananas.
  • Chocolates and other candies. Yes!
  • Spices and powdered mixes.

Foods that should be carefully packed with your checked baggage (if more than 3.4 oz)Foods that can be carried through a TSA checkpoint

  • Sauces. Any type of home cooked or canned sauces are spreadable, so check them.
  • Gravy. Homemade or in a jar/can.
  • Drinks. Wine, champagne, spirits and sparkling cider.
  • Canned fruits or vegetables. It’s got liquid in the can, so they need to be checked.
  • Preserves, jams and jellies. They are spreadable, so best to check them.
  • Soups and syrups.

Plan to arrive at the airport early and prepared for every step of the travel process. There is no substitute for packing your patience and arriving early. TSA will be staffed and ready for the high volume of travelers expected to depart DEN during the holidays.