Millions of travelers are expected to endure endless lines this holiday weekend as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) implements new security measures at airports across the country.
The TSA estimates there will be more than 26 million passengers traveling through airports between November 17 and 29, a five percent increase from last year. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is expected to be one the five busiest days in TSA history, with a total of 2.64 million passengers and crew expected to pass through security that day, the agency said.
The O’Hare and Midway International Airports in Chicago are expected to be among the busiest in the nation, with more than 1.9 million passengers expected over the weekend, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.
The weekend will also mark the first major holiday after the TSA announced new screening procedures that require passengers to “remove electronics larger than a cell phone from their carry-on bags and place them in a bin with nothing on top or below” for X-ray checks in standard lanes.
Newly-appointed TSA Administrator David Pekoske said the security measures could lead to “a slight increase in wait times.”
“The procedure is new,” Pekoske said, according to Politico. “It’s new to passengers. It’s somewhat new to our screeners.”
To make sure travelers don’t miss their flights, the TSA is advising passengers to be at the airport two hours before departure for domestic flights and three hours ahead of international flights.
The measures were first tested in 10 airports, including Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Logan International Airport (BOS), Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL).
The TSA announced the new measures have been recently implemented at airports across the country including, the Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB) in Florida, William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) in Texas, as well as the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) in Alaska.
“We look for windows of time where we can begin to phase [in] the implementation at airports across the country, and a window of time is between the end of the summer travel season and the beginning of the holiday travel season,” Pekoske said. “We’ve found that that process [in total] will have, in the long term, a negligible impact on passenger wait times.”
The TSA also advised passengers traveling through airports in Baltimore, Denver, New York City, Pittsburgh, Reno, Spokane and Washington DC to expect to be subjected to the new security measures.
TSA officers may also ask passengers to remove food and other items from their carry-on bags to help X-ray operators get a better view of their bags. Passengers were advised to organize their carry-on bags with those items easily accessible in order to reduce wait times.
The new security measures do not apply to passengers enrolled in TSA PreCheck who are using PreCheck lanes.
The changes are being implemented after a recent investigation into the TSA found screeners, equipment or procedures failing around 80 percent of the time. The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) also confirmed inspectors “identified vulnerabilities with TSA’s screener performance, screening equipment, and associated procedures.”
The TSA explained that passengers can bring Turkeys in their carry-on or checked bags, but passengers with live turkeys were advised to call before their flight.
Despite nearly 51 million Americans traveling at least 50 miles away from home this holiday weekend, President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that “traffic and airports are running very smoothly.”