TSA Chief Shares Which Airports Are Seeing the Biggest Increase in Crowds

"We know which airports will be the busiest, and we're doing work to expand infrastructure together with the airports."

Travelers make their way through a TSA screening line at Orlando International Airport

Paul Hennessy/Getty Images

It’s been a busy year at airports so far, and that means a busy year for airport security checkpoints as well. And while the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is working to staff those checkpoints and accommodate the travel boom, it’s not without its problems.

Staffing issues are visible across the country, but especially prevalent at certain airports, like in Boston, TSA administrator David Pekoske told Travel Weekly in a wide-ranging interview. The agency has also consistently been seeing numbers at checkpoints that meet — and even surpass — pre-pandemic travel.

“The peak periods are higher peaks than in the past,” Pekoske said, adding, “There are capacity concerns across the system. Many airports have completely redone their operation or have built new facilities. We know which airports will be the busiest, and we're doing work to expand infrastructure together with the airports. The Sunbelt airports have seen significant increases in passenger volume; we saw one of the biggest increases was at Austin. I would also look at some of our biggest airports. There's a new terminal in Newark. LaGuardia is completely redone. There's work in Denver.”

Pekoske added the agency is working to upgrade its technology to help keep up.

In fact, he said the TSA is upgrading the software on its Advance Imaging Technology machines in which passengers put their hands above their head to be screened, which “will improve our ability to detect anomalies.”

The agency has also started rolling out full-size Computed Tomography (CT) x-ray systems, which are able to create 3D images of carry-on items, allowing officers to detect things like weapons, explosives, and other banned items. The new machines will also potentially speed up the security process by allowing travelers to keep more items in their carry-on bags.

Additionally, the agency is testing a mobile ID system with iPhones, which Pekoske told Travel Weekly has “gone very well.”

“It includes a camera for identify verification as well as the mobile applications,” he said. “We are doing a limited number of tests. If all goes well, we'll expand the usage. How fast will all depend upon our procurement ability, but it will take years.”

Of course, one of the fastest ways to get through security is with TSA PreCheck, which allows passengers to keep liquids and laptops in their bags and keep their shoes on. The program uses a designated security line and costs $78 to renew in person or $70 to renew online.

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