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TSA Tops 2019 Security Screening Levels for First Time Since Pandemic Began

By Kelly Hoggan


The Transportation Security Administration has been steadilyincreasing its daily airport passenger security screening numbers for weeksnow, and it finally hit a signal milestone last Thursday, July 1st. For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic fully took root in early March 2020, the security agency screened more passengers that day than on the same weekday in 2019.  

Milestone Achieved 

On July 1st, TSA saw almost 2.2 million travelerspass through its airport checkpoint security stations versus about 2.02 million that same weekday back in 2019, which was an increase of nearly 3%. Also, on the same weekday in 2020, only 764,000 passengers were security screened by the agency. The number reached this July 1st  is a signal achievement by both TSA and its airline partners.  

Strong Travel Weekend 

TSA and the air carriers weren’t done, however, as this recently completed 4th of July holiday weekend saw two additional days when nearly 2.2 million air travelers were screened. Even the normally slow Saturday travel day saw almost 2 million passengers screened. In all, this July 4th holiday travel period was a markedly more successful one than 2019’s.  

Airline Staffing Challenges 

Where in 2020, airlines were struggling to keep employees from being furloughed or laid off, some carriers are now feeling pressure to increase staffing to meet surging air travel demand. Several airlines – especially the carriers that solicited voluntary furloughs and temporary leaves of absence – are now encouraging employees to return to work. According to news sources, the increase in passengers is mostly due to domestic U.S. leisure travel, as most business and long-haul international travel to destinations in Europe, Asia, South America, and elsewhere still seems to be flat or on hold.  

Airport Challenges 

Many airports are also facing a range of staffing challenges as they, too, seek to increase employee numbers, especially among vendors and concessionaires having shops and stores at their facilities. Some concessions operators, for instance, are now offering $1,000 signing bonuses to new hires as they look to fill openings for cooks, cashiers, and other positions. During the pandemic, many airports and their vendor and concessions tenants furloughed or laid off staff as airlines drastically shrank flight schedules.  

TSA Hiring Efforts 

For its part, TSA is offering targeted hiring bonuses of $1,000 as well, as the agency seeks to add about 6,000 transportation security officers (screeners) by the end of September, which also marks the end of the federal government’s current fiscal year. According to TSA spokespersons, the agency has already successfully added 4,000 new screeners to its ranks since it began the current hiring push.  

Plan Ahead 

While TSA isn’t reporting any major slowdowns or issues at its airport security checkpoints, it’s still always a good idea to arrive at the airport and check in early for your flight, sometimes by two or even three hours, depending on the airport. You can also use the federal security agency’s handy “MyTSA” mobile device app to have 24/7 access to the most frequently requested airport security information and better plan your time at the airport. All US airlines also maintain toll-free phone numbers that supply flight information, including any delays or cancellations.  

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.

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