The time between mid-to-late June and the Fourth of July weekend is always a peak time for travel. However, TSA has never screened as many travelers as it did this year on June 30th. TSA personnel scanned 2,884,683 travelers on June 30th leading to long wait times at airports throughout the U.S.
They have never screened so many passengers in a day before. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was normal for TSA to scan between 2 and 2.5 million passengers per day. However, the post-pandemic travel boom has slowly put more of a toll on TSA personnel as more and more people travel every day.
The new milestone topped the previous record of 2,882,915 screened on November 27th, 2019. Right before the record-breaking travel day, TSA screened 2,759,141 travelers on June 29th. Air travel slowly increased between June 27th and 28th with a major influx of passengers at the end of the month.
This comes after extreme weather led to thousands of cancellations and delayed flights in the weeks before. Over 2,000 flights were delayed and nearly 1,000 flights were canceled on June 27th which contributed to the high volume of travelers on June 30th. The delays and cancelations affected major travel cities such as Boston, New York City, Chicago, and Newark.
United Airlines reimbursed many travelers that experienced delays or cancellations between June 24th and June 30th. They shelled out 30,000 miles in rewards to passengers affected by the inclement weather and delays.
June 30th was already poised to be a major travel day, but the preceding cancelations only made it worse. The weekend before July 4th is typically one of the busiest travel times of the year because it falls in the middle of summer.
Luckily, TSA was prepared and expected the high volume of travelers. The TSA lines were still packed throughout the United States causing the organization to remind travelers about the importance of showing up early. A TSA spokesperson said, “This is exactly why we recommend travelers get to the airport early and why it’s vital to ensure you do not have any prohibited items with you”.
They typically recommend that you show up as early as two hours before a domestic flight to ensure you won’t have to endure long wait times. TSA also recommends showing up three hours before an international flight because of the extra security steps involved. Airlines aren’t required to reimburse you when you’re late for a flight unless the airport experiences major jams and slow wait times.
Flights are continuing to get delayed and canceled the week after July 4th. The delays aren’t as bad as they were on June 27th, but the East Coast continues to experience poor weather that disrupts airlines. An ongoing airline staffing shortage that has gone on since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to delays.
On July 2nd following the record-breaking day, another 750 flights were delayed, and almost 500 were cancelled. The delays and cancellations are slowly dwindling now that we are past the Fourth of July travel boom. TSA screened 2,007,445 travelers on July 4th and 2,481,122 on July 5th.
On July 6th, TSA screened 2,529,182 travelers, but wait times have gone down. Summer travel will continue to thrive throughout July and August, and how well TSA can keep up with it relies on consistent staffing and good weather.
The TSA director at Pittsburgh International Airport said, “Summer has been extremely busy and Friday was the busiest day ever in TSA’s 21-year history. Our officers are doing a tremendous job staying vigilant while screening travelers during this peak period.”
Airlines are doing everything they can to combat the wait times, delays, and cancellations that have persisted this summer. Now, many airlines are adopting 5G technology that lets them land on runways with low visibility. Otherwise, planes aren’t permitted to land when there is poor weather or fog.
Whether it be using TSA PreCheck or Clear Plus, it’s worthwhile to consider options to reduce wait times during this busy summer. Arrive at the airport a minimum of 45 minutes before your flight and make sure you don’t have any banned items like water bottles that could keep you in line longer.