TSA is prepared for busiest summer travel season ever

Agency projects to screen a record number of travelers this summer, emphasizes readiness in the transportation ecosystem with airport, airline and travel partners
National Press Release
Thursday, May 16, 2024

WASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is prepared for the highest passenger volumes the agency has seen at airport security checkpoints nationwide during this summer’s travel season, which begins Memorial Day weekend and runs through Labor Day. TSA forecasts Friday, May 24, to be the busiest travel day of the long Memorial Day weekend, anticipating nearly three million passengers. From May 23 to May 29, the agency expects to screen more than 18 million passengers and crew, representing a checkpoint volume increase of approximately 6.4% compared to the same period in 2023.

“In close coordination with airport, airline and travel partners, we are more than ready to handle this summer’s increased travel volumes,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “We are also continuing to deploy state-of-the-art checkpoint technology that increases security effectiveness, efficiency and enhances the passenger experience and our retention and recruitment numbers are the highest they’ve ever been.”

TSA is continuing to modernize airport security checkpoints across the country with a focus on enhanced detection methods to best secure the aviation system. This summer, airline passengers can expect to encounter some of those latest checkpoint technologies and recommends several important travel tips. These include:

Tip 1: Be aware of new checkpoint technology and follow TSA guidance. TSA is using the second generation of Credential Authentication Technology (CAT-2), which features the same capabilities as the CAT, confirming the authenticity of a passenger’s identification credentials with their acceptable photo identification credential along with their flight details and pre-screening status, but with an added camera feature. The passenger may voluntarily agree to have a real-time photo taken of them to verify their identity using their TSA-acceptable identification credential. The facial recognition technology TSA utilizes helps ensure the person standing at the checkpoint is the same person pictured on their ID. Keep your boarding pass tucked away. Photos are not stored or saved after a positive ID match has been made, except in a limited testing environment for evaluation of the effectiveness of the technology. Passengers who do not want their photo taken may ask the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) for a manual ID check without penalty and losing their place in line. For more information on how TSA is using facial recognition technology, see TSA’s Privacy Impact Assessments, Fact Sheet and biometrics technology webpages.

Several airports have installed Computed Tomography (CT) units. These units significantly improve scanning and threat detection capabilities for carry-on bags. CT units give TSOs the ability to review a 3D image of passengers’ bags and reduce the need to physically search the contents of the bag. Passengers screened in security lanes with CT units do not need to remove their 3-1-1 liquids or laptops, but they must place every carry-on item, including bags, into a bin for screening. Passengers are also reminded to bring at maximum one carry-on bag and one personal item through security screening.

To date, TSA has deployed 2,050 CAT units to 223 airports. Among those, 238 CAT units represent the second generation (CAT-2) technology and are located in 84 airports nationwide. Additionally, TSA has deployed more than 820 CT units to more than 240 airports nationwide.

Screening protocols may vary from airport to airport depending on available technology and the current threat environment, so it is important for passengers to follow the TSO’s directions.

Tip 2: Do you carry a firearm? Prepare, pack and declare. Firearms are prohibited at security checkpoints, in the secure area of an airport and in the passenger cabin of an aircraft, even if a passenger has a concealed carry permit or is in a constitutional carry jurisdiction. Passengers may travel with a firearm, but it must be secured in the passenger’s checked baggage; packed unloaded; locked in a hard-sided case; and declared to the airline when checking in at the airline ticket counter.

TSA does not confiscate or seize firearms. If a passenger brings a firearm to the security checkpoint on their person or in their carry-on luggage, the TSO will contact local law enforcement to safely unload and take possession of the firearm. Law enforcement may also arrest or cite the passenger, depending on local law. TSA may impose a civil penalty up to almost $15,000, and for the first offense, passengers who bring a firearm to a security checkpoint will lose TSA PreCheck® eligibility for five years. Second violations will result in permanent disqualification from the program and additional civil penalties.

Tip 3: Pack an empty bag, know before you go, and remember the 3-1-1 rule. When airline passengers begin packing for travel with an empty bag, they are less likely to be stopped at the security checkpoint for having prohibited items. Prior to packing that empty bag, check TSA’s “What Can I Bring?” tool to know what is prohibited. If you’re heading to the beach, you may wonder how to pack your sunscreen. Any liquids, sunscreen containers and alcohol over 3.4 ounces must be packed in a checked bag. Liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes are allowed in carry-on bags as long as each item is 3.4 ounces or less and placed in one quart-sized bag. Each passenger is limited to one quart-size bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes.

Tip 4: Make sure you have a REAL ID or another acceptable ID. Adult passengers 18 years and older must show valid ID credentials at the airport checkpoint in order to travel. Beginning May 7, 2025, if you plan to use your state-issued ID or driver’s license to fly within the U.S., make sure you have a REAL ID or another acceptable form of ID. If you are not sure if you have a REAL ID, check with your state department of motor vehicles. For questions on acceptable IDs, go to TSA.gov.

Tip 5: TSA PreCheck® members: Make sure your Known Traveler Number (KTN) is in your reservation. With nearly 20 million TSA PreCheck members, it is essential that airline reservations have the passenger’s correct KTN, full name and date of birth so they can truly “Travel with Ease.” Those who fly with multiple airlines should ensure their KTN is updated in each of their airline profiles every time they travel. TSA PreCheck passengers are low-risk travelers who do not need to remove shoes, belts, 3-1-1 liquids, food, laptops and light jackets at the TSA checkpoint. TSA’s wait time standards for TSA PreCheck lanes are under 10 minutes and under 30 minutes for standard lanes. 

If you are not yet enrolled in TSA PreCheck and appreciate faster passenger checkpoint screening, we encourage you to enroll with one of TSA’s enrollment providers starting at $77.95 for a five-year membership. Most new enrollees receive their KTN within three to five days. Members may renew membership online up to six months prior to expiration for another five-year term starting at $68.95. Visit TSA PreCheck at www.tsa.gov/precheck for more information about enrolling or renewing in TSA PreCheck and to find enrollment locations and pricing information for all TSA PreCheck enrollment providers.

Tip 6: Give yourself plenty of time. Summer travel will be busy, so plan ahead! Give yourself plenty of time to park or return a rental car, take a shuttle to the airport if needed, check in with your airline and drop your bags and prepare for the security checkpoint. Save time by removing items from pockets and placing them in your carry-on bag, instead of putting items directly into bins at the conveyor belt.

Tip 7: Respect TSA and other frontline airport and airline employees. Violence and unruly behavior in the transportation system are not acceptable and result in significant delays at traveler checkpoints. TSOs, along with all frontline airport and airline employees and local law enforcement, are working together to ensure safe and secure travel. Assaulting a TSA employee is a federal offense and will result in penalties and/or arrest.

Tip 8: Contact TSA with questions, compliments, complaints or assistance. Contact TSA by sending a text directly to 275-872 (“AskTSA”) on any mobile device or over social media by sending a message to @AskTSA on X or Facebook Messenger. An automated virtual assistant is available 24/7 to answer commonly asked questions, and AskTSA staff are available 365 days a year from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET for more complicated questions. Travelers may also reach the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673. An automated service is available 24/7. Passengers who need additional assistance through security screening may request a TSA Passenger Support Specialist (PSS). A PSS is a TSO who has received specialized training, including how to effectively assist and communicate with individuals with disabilities, medical conditions or those who need additional screening assistance. Individuals should request passenger assistance at least 72 hours in advance by contacting our TSA Cares passenger support line at (855) 787-2227. Live assistance for both the TCC and TSA Cares is available weekdays, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, or weekends and holidays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.

TSA encourages all passengers to remain vigilant. If You See Something. Say Something®. Those traveling abroad for the summer should check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Know Before You Go page to learn about required documentation. For those traveling with children this summer, TSA offers kid-friendly videos for children packing for their upcoming trip.

For additional information about changes to air travel please see the Department of Transportation’s recent announcement.