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Peak summer travel season is almost upon us.
And with the anticipation of beach vacations and long holiday weekends comes a dreaded side effect: Long lines at airport Transportation Security Administration checkpoints.
The TSA expects a massive crush of 2.7 million passengers a day to fly out of US airports during peak days this summer (like Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day), agency Administrator David Pekoske said Thursday.
Those numbers will nearly break the agency’s record for most passengers screened in one day. TSA’s all-time busiest day ever recorded was the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2004, when it processed 2.7 million passengers at airports around the country. TSA processes about 2.2 million to 2.3 million flyers on an average day.
Luckily, TSA says it’s taking steps to deal with the onslaught of summer travelers. To more efficiently screen bags through x-ray machines, agents are asking passengers to remove more items from their carry-ons, in addition to traditional items like laptops and other large electronics to get clear views of the bags. This would reduce the number of additional scans needed. Earlier this year, flyers noticed the TSA asking them to remove items like snacks that might clutter the bag’s scan image.
The agency is also testing 3D scanners, called computed tomography, in Phoenix (PHX) and Boston (BOS) that let officers rotate images of the inside of the bag to get a better look without having to pull it out of the x-ray machine and perform a hand search.
The new tech is part of the agency’s funding from Congress — the legislative body set aside a proposed $7.9 billion for the TSA in its 2018 budget, with provisions for testing new initiatives like the 3D scanners. The proposed budget would allot for 145 of those machines in airports in early 2019.
Both US airports and airlines have also contributed newer equipment to TSA to make the screening process more efficient, totaling 130 automated security lines that have conveyor belts to automatically restock bins passengers use for screening their carry-on items.
Overall, airlines have seen the number of US flyers increase by about 4% per year. And those rates always steeply climb in the summer months.
“That’s a very high volume,” Pekoske, the TSA administrator said of the predicted amount of summer travelers. “We’re prepared for a busy summer travel season.”
H/T: USA Today
Featured image by Scott Olson/Getty Images.
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