It’s no secret the holiday season offers several of the busiest travel days of the year. In fact, the Transportation Security Administration expects four different days over the next couple of weeks that will feature very busy airport security checkpoints along with very full planes.
Agency officials are also advising the traveling public to expect what they call “sustained high travel volumes” through the rest of 2021, which is no doubt a welcome change from 2020’s anemic air travel year. Here’s how things are shaping up:
For the remainder of 2021, Wednesday, December 22nd and Thursday, December 23rd are shaping up to be the busiest pre-Christmas dates for air travel. Post-Christmas, air travelers should expect Sunday, January 2nd of 2022 and Monday, January 3rd of 2022 to be the two busiest post-holiday travel days.
HIGH PASSENGER COUNTS
With the exception of the 2020 pandemic year, holiday travelers can expect exactly what TSA always says will occur: “Sustained high travel volumes” through the rest of 2021 and the first few days of 2022. Typically, Christmas Day will be the only day that will probably feature relatively low airline passenger volumes when compared to the week before that holiday and the week after it. For all other days airlines and air travelers should see crowded airports and busy TSA security checkpoints, so plan accordingly.
AVOID UNNECESSARY DELAYS
TSA is also strongly advising travelers to plan ahead and plan accordingly when flying during the very busy holiday season. For starters, flyers should ensure they’re up to date on current COVID-19 health and safety protocols before arriving at their departure airport.
Remember: All individuals are required to wear masks at TSA airport security checkpoints.
Here are other TSA-recommended traveler tips for the holidays:
1. Pack smart. Avoid putting TSA-prohibited items in your checked and carry-on luggage, for one. Refer to TSA’s website for just what’s allowed and not allowed in luggage of all types.
2. Make sure you know how to travel with holiday food and drink. Again, the TSA website is the best source for the latest information on carry-on and checked-luggage items.
3. If possible, pack any gifts unwrapped and in gift bags. This will help prevent TSA security officers requiring you to unwrap presents during screening.
4. Download the MyTSA app for the latest updates and information on holiday or any other travel time.
RECORD HIGH PASSENGER NUMBERS
On November28th, shortly after Thanksgiving 2021, TSA recorded its highest passenger screening numbers since the start of the COVID pandemic in early 2020. That travel day, nearly 2.5 million individuals made their way through the federal security agency’s airport checkpoints. To say that TSA checkpoints were busy is an understatement.
Again: Plan ahead. Airports will be very busy in the days ahead. It’s a safe bet that at least one of the four projected busy travel days during the remainder of the 2021 holiday season will meet or even exceed the November 28, 2021, passenger screening number of 2,451,300 individuals.
Kelly Hoggan, Founder and CEO of H4 Solutions, previously served as assistant administrator for operations at the Transportation Security Administration. In that role, he was responsible for aircraft and checkpoint security operations at the nation's 450-plus commercial airports.