SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) nationally and locally expects to screen a record number of travelers during the 2018 Christmas and New Year holiday travel season. Nationwide, TSA projects it will screen six percent more travelers compared to this same period last year. Locally, TSA at Sacramento International Airport (SMF) expects the increase over last year’s levels to be around 9 percent.
At airports across the country, projected passenger volumes for the end-of-year holiday travel season will average around 2.3 million travelers per day. Volumes will begin to pick-up Wednesday, Dec. 19 and continue through Monday, Dec. 24. Many travelers have planned their return travel starting Wednesday, Dec. 26 through the end of the year. The busiest day of the holiday season is projected to be Friday, Dec. 21 when TSA expects to screen more than 2.7 million people. At SMF, the local travel trend and peak travel days mirror the national trend.
The busiest times at the SMF security checkpoints vary by terminal. In Terminal A, for flights departing prior to 6:45 a.m., the number of departing passengers can exceed TSA’s capacity to screen them through the security checkpoint. People traveling during this timeframe are strongly advised to plan accordingly and arrive early. Airlines serving Terminal A include Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. In Terminal B, there is a steady flow of travelers through the security checkpoint during the day with peak times occurring from 5 a.m. to 6:30 a.m.; 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.; 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and again 4:30 to 6 p.m.
TSA recommends that travelers arrive at the airport two hours prior to flight departure to ensure there is plenty of time to complete each step of the airport process. By arriving early, you will arrive at your gate with time to spare. TSA opens the SMF security checkpoints daily at 3:45 a.m.
In order to handle the increased passenger volume on peak days during the holiday travel season, TSA locally and nationwide will be fully staffed, using overtime to extend the hours of part-time TSA officers. In addition, TSA utilizes several layers of security, both seen and unseen by the traveling public.
While TSA concentrates on aviation security, passengers can assist by coming to the airport prepared. Here are some helpful travel tips to make the security checkpoint experience go smoothly during the holidays – and throughout the year:
- Unpack your bag before you pack it – at home. By unpacking your bag fully and re-packing it before coming to the airport, you will avoid bringing items to the airport that are prohibited past the security checkpoint. This includes knives, power tools and tools over seven inches in length; stun guns; martial arts items and more. Use the “What Can I Bring” feature available on the TSA.gov website to help determine if an item is allowed in a carry-on bag or if it must be checked.
- Dress for security screening. Simplify your experience by avoiding bulky jewelry, scarves, hair accessories and large belts since these types of items are likely to require additional screening. Remember to remove all items from your pockets and secure them in your carry-on bag.
- Make sure electronics are accessible in your carry-on. Organize your carry-on bag so electronics larger than a cell phone can be quickly and easily accessed when at the security checkpoint. All electronic devices larger than a cell phone should be placed in bins for x-ray screening with nothing on top or below, similar to how laptops have been screened for several years.
- Refresh your knowledge of the liquids rule. Liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes in carry-on luggage must be 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or less. All containers must fit inside a single quart-size plastic bag and be placed in a bin for carry-on baggage screening. Familiarize yourself with procedures for traveling with medically-necessary liquids, which may require additional screening.
- AskTSA on social media. Question about what you can bring through the security checkpoint? Tweet or Message AskTSA weekdays from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. PST and weekends and holidays from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. PST.
- Call TSA Cares. Travelers or families of travelers with disabilities and/or medical conditions may call the TSA Cares helpline toll free at 855-787-2227 with any questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint as well as to arrange for assistance at the checkpoint. It is recommended to call at least 72 hours prior to traveling.
As a reminder, public awareness is a critical element of our security efforts. Travelers are encouraged to report suspicious activities, and remember If You See Something, Say Something™.