Flying somewhere this summer? You won’t be alone. Airlines for America (A4A), the trade group representing the biggest U.S. airlines, predicts some 246 million travelers will take to the skies this summer, which would be a record and represent an increase of 3.7 percent over last year. A4A says airlines added roughly 116,000 seats per day to accommodate the surge in travelers.
Those numbers mean that, on average, some 2.7 million travelers will pass through our nation’s airports daily. And each and every one of them needs to go through security.
That deluge could come to a head as soon as this Friday, as travelers depart for their Independence Day vacations.
“We expect that this coming Friday will potentially be one of busiest days ever in TSA history, in terms of passenger throughput busiest ever,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said this week. The agency is preparing for around 2.6 million people Friday, well above the 2.2 million passengers it typically screens on a given day. AAA is also predicting record-breaking travel numbers this Independence Day.
Pack Your TSA Patience
Bottom line: It’s going to be a busy, crowded summer at our nation’s airports. This increase in travelers comes as TSA has tightened procedures at security checkpoints, including greater scrutiny of powders (think: spices, baby powder, makeup) and the well-publicized restrictions on laptops.
That said, screenings have gone smoothly since Memorial Day, according to USA Today, which reports that 96 percent of travelers in standard checkpoint lanes are waiting less than 20 minutes. Wait times can spike to much longer durations, of course, but that’s a reasonable average for a busy travel period.
Still, travelers would do well to arrive at the airport a little early and pay extra attention to the TSA’s new requirements for carry-on luggage, for powders in particular. “TSA recommends packing containers [of powder] larger than 350 milliliters, or about the size of a can of soda, in checked bags,” writes USA Today. “Baby formula, for example, is allowed in carry-on bags. But if a checkpoint officer can’t resolve what the powder in a carry-on bag is, the passenger might be forced to discard it at the checkpoint in order to board a flight.”
And don’t forget about your liquids, either.