PITTSBURGH--More than 40 million passengers and crew will be screened by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers during the winter holiday period, one of the busiest times of the year to fly. TSA is expecting anywhere from 100,000 to 400,000 additional travelers at checkpoints nationwide each day.
The end-of-year holiday travel period extends from Dec. 15 through Jan. 2. Thursday (Dec. 21) and Friday (Dec. 22) are expected to be the busiest days of the travel period at airports nationwide. More than 2.4 million individuals are estimated to be screened that Thursday and nearly 2.5 million on Friday. Tuesday through Friday after Christmas and Tuesday after New Year’s Eve also are expected to be busy, with passenger volume projections as high as 2.3 million per day. A typical day sees 2.1 million passengers and crew members passing through TSA security checkpoints.
Passengers flying out of Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) during the holiday travel season should plan to be at the airport two hours prior to a domestic flight and three hours prior to an international flight so that TSA can accommodate the large volume of passengers needing to be screened.
TSA expects to screen an average of 14,000 passengers and crew per day at PIT during the busy winter holiday period, an increase of 16 percent over preceding weeks’ passenger volume. Monday, December 18th, following an evening home Pittsburgh Steelers game, is expected to be the busiest day which could see 18,000 passengers departing PIT. Tuesday December 26th could see near that number. The week before Christmas will be busier than the average but the week after will be far busier with daily totals expected in the range of 16,000.
In order to handle the increased passenger volume on peak days during the holiday travel season, TSA will have up to 1,400 additional officers working at the top 50 airports. This will be accomplished through the use of overtime, extending hours for part-time officers and staffing redeployments.
Passengers flying out of the nation’s busiest airports can expect to see canine teams working at the checkpoints as well. TSA has 55 more canine teams on the job this year compared to 2016’s holiday season. As efforts continue to raise the baseline for aviation security, those canine teams will provide canine expedited screening at more than 30 of the nation’s busiest airports. The Canine Expedited Screening Program, which was implemented this past summer, increases aviation security by exposing all travelers in the checkpoint lines to the explosives detection dogs. It allows all lanes at a checkpoint to be converted to offer TSA Pre✓® screening levels during a given timeframe. This increase in security is an added convenience to many travelers because it allows them to keep on their shoes, their lightweight jackets and it allows them to keep their 3-1-1 liquids bag and laptops in their carry-on luggage.
In addition, new screening procedures for carry-on bags in non-TSA Pre✓® lanes continues to be phased in at all 440 airports nationwide, and the procedures have been implemented at over 200 airports so far. This new protocol requires travelers to remove all personal electronics larger than their cell phone from their carry-on bags and place them in bins with nothing above or below them so that TSA can get a clear X-ray image of these items (e.g.: laptops, tablets, e-readers, cameras).
It is common for passengers to travel with gifts during this holiday travel period. If a wrapped gift triggers an alarm, the gift might need to be unwrapped for TSA officers to resolve the alarm. Instead of wrapping a gift, travelers are encouraged to use a gift bag or a gift box so the alarm can be resolved by simply removing the item from the gift bag or gift box without needing to unwrap it. Or, passengers may consider wrapping the gift upon destination arrival.
For other holiday-related travel tips like transporting snow globes, pies, cakes and toys, read our holiday travel blog post. Travelers with questions about transportation security can contact a TSA employee for live assistance 365 days a year. Send questions and comments to @AskTSA via Twitter or Facebook Messenger from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends/holidays.