TSA preps for large number of air travelers this holiday season

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(Source: 3TV.CBS 5) (Source: 3TV.CBS 5)

More than 34 million passengers and crew will be screened by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) nationwide now through Jan. 2, one of the busiest times of the year to fly.

Nationally, the busiest days are expected to Thursday, Dec. 21, Friday, Dec. 22 and Tuesday, Dec. 26.

At Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), TSA will be fully staffed to ensure that holiday travelers will be screened efficiently through the security checkpoint. The busiest days for TSA at PHX are projected to be:

  • Friday, Dec. 22 - 54,200 passengers
  • Saturday, Dec. 23 - 55,000 passengers
  • Tuesday, Dec. 26 - 56,400 passengers
  • Wednesday, Dec. 27 - 56,300 passengers
  • Thursday, Dec. 28 - 54,900 passengers
  • Friday, Dec. 29 - 53,700 passengers
  • Saturday, Dec. 30 - 55,800 passengers
  • Sunday, Dec. 31 - 44,600 passengers
  • Monday, Jan. 1 - 56,200 passengers
  • Tuesday, Jan. 2 - 57,000 passengers

The busiest times at the security checkpoint are early morning from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m., late morning and again late afternoon.

TSA strongly advises travelers to 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.

The Phoenix area will host two college football bowl games this year. The Cactus Bowl will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 26 at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix and the Fiesta Bowl will be played on Saturday, Dec. 30 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

In order to handle the increased passenger volume on peak days during the holiday travel season, TSA locally and nationwide will be fully staffed and using overtime to extend the hours of part-time TSA officers.

In addition, TSA at PHX will utilize Passenger Screening Canines in the security checkpoint to expedite the screening process for some passengers. These explosive detection canines are specially trained to detect the scent of explosives or explosive components in a busy transportation environment, adding an additional layer of security.

Screening procedures for electronics larger than a cell phone in carry-on baggage are fully in place at Sky Harbor in non-TSA Pre-check lanes. The procedures that were tested at PHX and nine other airports over the past several months continue to be phased in at all airports nationwide.

The new procedures require travelers to place all electronics larger than a cell phone in bins for x-ray screening when going through the security checkpoint. The electronics should be placed in a bin with nothing on top or below, similar to how laptops have been screened for several years.

Passengers should continue to remove their one-quart bag containing liquids, gels and aerosols in quantities of less than 100 ml (3.4 ounces). The new procedures now require the bag to be placed in a bin by itself for x-ray screening. By simply removing these specific items from the carry-on, TSA officers are able to obtain a clearer view of them on the x-ray screen.

The TSA says passengers play an important role in the security process. By being prepared, they can simplify their travel experience and have a significant impact on efficiency in the security checkpoint.

Here are some helpful TSA tools and travel tips to ensure a smooth checkpoint experience:

  • Tweet or Message “AskTSA.” Issues with receiving TSA Pre-check. Unsure if an item is allowed through security in a carry-on bag? Get real-time assistance by tweeting your questions and comments to @AskTSA or via Facebook Messenger, weekdays, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. MT and weekends and holidays, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. MT.
  • Prepare for security. Have a valid ID and boarding pass out prior to arriving at the travel document podium. Remove electronics larger than a cell phone from carry-on baggage and place in a bin.
  •  Avoid overpacking. Don’t overstuff your carry-on bag. Consider checking bags when feasible. Wrap charging cords and cables neatly before packing.
  • Refresh your knowledge of the liquids rules. Liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes must be 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or less. All containers must fit inside a single quart-sized 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.
  • Leave gifts unwrapped. Wrapped gifts are screened just like any other item. If a wrapped gift alarms the security screening technology, a TSA officer may have to unwrap it to determine what the item is. Consider traveling with unwrapped gifts or placing them in a gift bag for easy access and resolution.
  • 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.

 For more information about TSA, please visit the website tsa.gov.

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