The numbers are in: TSA reports its busiest day since March over Labor Day Weekend
Is U.S. air travel on the rebound? This Labor Day weekend marked the busiest period the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has seen since the sudden drop in passengers in March due to coronavirus.
The TSA reported that it screened 968,673 travelers on Friday, Sept. 4, the highest number since March 17.
This number is down over 50% compared with the nearly 2.2 million passengers who passed through TSA checkpoints the same day one year ago. Still, it's remarkably better than in April, when the agency screened just 87,534 passengers at its lowest point.
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The travel-organizing app TripIt recently published data revealing this year’s top locations for Labor Day Weekend travel and the findings may surprise you. It suggests that destinations with the biggest upticks in flight bookings compared to last year include Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean and Hawaii. The most popular city for U.S. travelers was Las Vegas, NV.
Due to lower passenger volumes and increased use of security lanes, the TSA says that wait times have been reduced by at least half compared with last year. Passengers are now advised to arrive at the airport between one to two hours before their flight as the total time in the screening process will be shorter.
Related: CBP resumes Global Entry interviews next week
“For travelers who have not flown since the beginning of the pandemic, the TSA checkpoint experience will be noticeably different as compared to Labor Day last year,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said. “Passengers also play an important role in helping us ensure they safely and efficiently get through security screening at our airports while wearing masks and respecting social distancing.”
The agency is allowing passengers to wear face masks while waiting in line to be screened, but the mask must be temporarily lowered when seeing an agent and having your documents checked. Passengers are also allowed to bring full-sized containers of Lysol-type wipes and liquid hand sanitizer in up to 12-ounce quantities in carry-on bags until further notice, up from the normal 3.4-ounce limit on liquids. Additionally, the TSA is temporarily permitting the use of driver’s licenses that expired after March 1, 2020, as acceptable identification at security checkpoints.
Related: As travel reopens, here’s what it’s like flying in the US right now
This news comes as airlines begin to restore their route networks. American Airlines, Delta and United plan to resume as many as 15 long-haul international routes in September. Airlines are also ramping up domestic service, primarily to outdoor-oriented leisure destinations. On Thursday, Southwest announced that it will add Miami (MIA) and Palm Springs (PSP) to its route map by year-end, among other previously-announced additions. That said, summer is the busiest season for airlines. With schools resuming and many employees not traveling for work yet, it's likely that these numbers will dip again in the fall.
Keep in mind that TSA PreCheck and Clear are still operational and can help you zip through airport security. To make your wait as short as possible, check out TPG's guide on the best credit cards to use for PreCheck.