Summer travel heating up at DEN and nationally

TSA DEN marks fourth busiest day Sunday for number of passengers screened
Local Press Release
Monday, July 1, 2024
DEN’S West Security Checkpoint on July 1, 2024.

DENVER - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is prepared for high passenger volumes during the Fourth of July travel period at airports nationwide including Denver International Airport (DEN). With single day records being set over the past week for the number of passenger screened at airports nationwide, TSA is advising air travelers to arrive at the airport early and prepared for every step of the travel process.

Sunday, June 30, 2024, was the fourth busiest ever for TSA at DEN when 86,941 were screened through the security checkpoints. The single-day record at DEN was July 16, 2023, when 88,684 people were screened. The second busiest day was Monday, September 4, 2023, when 87,624 people were screened and the third busiest day was July 7, 2019, when 87,187 people were screened.

TSA nationally expects to screen more than 16.2 million people from Wednesday, July 3 through Monday, July 8, which is a 5.5% increase over 2023 Independence Day holiday travel volumes. Locally, TSA projects it will screen more than 437,000 people during the same six-day period.

TSA anticipates the peak travel day will be Sunday, July 7, when the agency expects to screen more than 3 million individuals at 434 airports; TSA at DEN expects to screen more than 85,000 people that day. TSA staffs to meet its wait time standards, which are 10 minutes and under in TSA PreCheck® lanes and 30 minutes and under in standard screening lanes.

High travel volumes and busy security checkpoints have become the norm lately. Twelve of the agencies Top 15 busiest travel days nationally have occurred since mid-May. Locally, four of the Top 10 busiest days have occurred since Memorial Day weekend.

The busiest times at the DEN checkpoints daily are 4 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The single busiest hour for TSA at DEN is routinely 3 p.m., which is the time when those departing on the late afternoon and early evening flights are coming through the security checkpoint.

The busiest days to travel any week are Sunday and Monday as well as Thursday and Friday. Regardless of your flight departure time or day of the week, this summer all travelers - no matter at what airport - will need to arrive early and prepared for every step of the air travel experience.

“We have been anticipating the arrival of the Fourth of July travel period and planning our security operations to ensure that we are prepared for the surge in travelers who will be coming to the airport. TSA will be on the job with security screening officers extending their shifts to ensure travelers have a smooth trip through DEN,” said TSA Federal Security Director for Colorado Douglas Cruz. “We are asking travelers to be good partners with TSA and ensure that they are prepared for the screening process. Please don’t bring prohibited items in your carry-on luggage and allow plenty of time for every step of the travel process. And, remember that fireworks are not allowed in carry-on or checked baggage. We look forward to making good on our plans to deliver top notch security in the most efficient manner.”

At DEN, departing travelers are reminded to go to the security checkpoint that offers the type of screening they are eligible for.

  • West Security Checkpoint: TSA PreCheck® screening, TSA PreCheck screening with CLEAR, DEN Reserve, premium access, active duty military access and functional needs access. Hours are 4 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • South Security Checkpoint: General screening and CLEAR. Hours are 3 a.m. to 1 a.m.
  • South Security TSA PreCheck Checkpoint (located near baggage carousel 7): 4 a.m. to 7:45 p.m.
  • A Bridge Checkpoint: General screening. Hours are 4:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Travelers may notice that security screening procedures can vary by airport. While TSA follows strict standardized screening protocols, those procedures are dependent upon the equipment and technologies in use at any given airport. Due to these variances, it is important for travelers to listen to guidance provided by TSA officers on-site.

Below are some examples of technologies in use at DEN that travelers may encounter and how those will impact the screening process.

Do I need to show a boarding pass to the TSA officer?
If Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) is in use at the entrance to the security checkpoint, no boarding pass is needed. Travelers will need to present only their photo ID to the TSA officer.

CAT units scan a traveler’s photo identification and confirm the traveler’s identity on-screen for the TSA officer. Through a secure Internet connection, CAT is also able to verify that the traveler is ticketed for travel that day and indicate the type of screening status (such as TSA PreCheck®) that the traveler is eligible for.

Because travelers under age 18 are not required to present photo identification to the TSA officer, anyone 17 and younger will need to show a boarding pass to gain entry into the security checkpoint.

TSA does recommend all travelers have their boarding pass available in case the TSA officer needs to manually inspect it or CAT is not in use.

Do I have to get my picture taken when verifying my identity?
It is never required that a traveler have a photo taken during the travel document checking process, but travelers departing DEN will have that option.

TSA at DEN is using the latest generation of CAT units (referred to as CAT-2) throughout all checkpoints. They are equipped with a camera that captures a real-time photo of the traveler in addition to scanning their photo identification. CAT-2 is able to compare the traveler’s photo on the state-issued ID against the in-person, real-time photo. Once the unit confirms a match, a TSA officer verifies it and the traveler can proceed to security screening. TSA officers can perform additional passenger verification if needed.

Photos captured by a CAT-2 unit are never stored or used for any other purpose than immediate identity verification. Travelers who do not want to participate in the facial matching process can opt out in favor of an alternative identity verification process conducted by the TSA officer.

Do I need to remove electronics larger than a cell phone and travel size liquids from my carry-on?
That will be determined by the type of X-ray scanner in use. The West Security Checkpoint is equipped with computed tomography (CT) X-ray scanners in every lane. These state-of-the-art CT scanners create a 3D image of the contents of the bag, giving the X-ray operator enhanced screening capabilities. If a CT scanner is in use, the TSA officer will advise people to leave their electronics and travel size liquids in their carry-on bags.

At South Security and A Bridge Checkpoints, some lanes have CT scanners and others lanes are equipped with X-ray units that generate traditional 2D X-ray images. Those lanes with 2-D X-ray technology require electronics and liquids to be removed from carry-on bags and travelers will need to remove electronics and travel size liquids.

Does my carry-on property have to go in a bin during screening?
Yes, if your carry-on is screened through the CT scanner, place all items in a bin. Every CT bin is equipped with an RFID tag that allows the traveler’s personal property and the associated X-ray image to be tracked throughout the screening process.

In all other lanes, your carry-on items can be placed directly on the conveyor belt. For smaller items, please secure them in your carry-on so they don’t inadvertently get left behind.

Do I need to take off my shoes?
TSA requires travelers in general screening lanes to remove their shoes during the screening process. However, travelers 12 and under as well as those 75 and older are always permitted to keep on their shoes during the security screening process.

TSA PreCheck®-eligible travelers can leave on their shoes as long as they do not alarm the security screening equipment.

Can family members go through the TSA PreCheck lane with me?
Any traveler 17 years old and under can accompany a TSA PreCheck-eligible parent or guardian through TSA PreCheck screening when traveling on the same reservation and when the TSA PreCheck indicator appears on their boarding pass. TSA operates dedicated TSA PreCheck screening lanes at DEN.

This benefit is another reason to join the more than 19 million people who have enrolled in TSA PreCheck. On average, 99% of TSA PreCheck-eligible travelers wait 10 minutes or less to be screened TSA PreCheck enrollment is now offered by three companies including Telos, CLEAR and Idemia.

Local travelers can enroll in TSA PreCheck at DEN on the east side of Level 5 of the terminal, near the South Security Checkpoint. For more information and to start the enrollment process, visit An in-person visit is required to complete enrollment in TSA PreCheck.  

Final advice from TSA
With 434 federalized, commercial airports nationwide, 685 security checkpoints and 2,412 security screening lanes, it can be challenging to know what to expect at any airport. Here are some tips to help all travelers have a smooth trip through the security checkpoint at any airport:

  1. Arrive at the airport early and prepared. Allow ample time to park, navigate to the terminal, check luggage and proceed through the TSA security screening checkpoint. Keep in mind that most flights board 30 - 45 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time.
  2. Be prepared for any scenario. In the security checkpoint, have your photo identification and boarding pass ready. This will keep you from slowing down the screening process for you and everyone behind you.
  3. Listen to directions provided by TSA officers. The advisements are specific to the type of screening you will experience. The information given will make your screening experience quicker and smoother.
  4. Pack smart. Always start with an empty bag to ensure you don’t inadvertently bring prohibited items to the security checkpoint. Place electronics larger than a cell phone and travel size liquids at the top of your carry-on so they can be easily accessed if you are required to remove them. Also, be sure that all liquids are 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or less if transporting them through the security checkpoint.
  5. Leave your fireworks at home. Fireworks are considered a type of explosive and cannot travel in either carry-on or checked luggage. Leave your fireworks at home or purchase them legally at your destination.
  6. Get assistance prior to traveling. Ensure that carry-ons do not contain prohibited items since they slow down the security screening process. To determine whether an item is allowed or prohibited in carry-on luggage, 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).