Last updated: 02:53 PM ET, Thu June 30 2016

Fourth of July Travel: How Bad Will Security Lines Be?

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | June 30, 2016

Fourth of July Travel: How Bad Will Security Lines Be?

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Travelers who fly over the Fourth of July weekend will see an increased security presence at US airports. The uptick in security comes in the wake of the dead attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport. 

People in America are already on edge. JFK airport was evacuated for a short period of time after a suspicious package was found in one of the terminals on Wednesday. Also, members of the US military were seen patrolling at the New York hub earlier this week. 

More security means longer waits

Fliers, especially those who are flying out of major hub airports, should plan to spend an additional 30-45 minutes going through security procedures this weekend. More passengers could be selected for in-depth screening and more bags pulled out for manual searches. This could cancel out the improvements that TSA has made this summer to increase the speed of the screening process. 

In New York, the Port Authority, which is responsible for operations at all three New York City area airports, has said that it will increase the number of "high visibility patrols with tactical weapons and equipment." These patrols have already been more visible following the mass shooting in Orlando earlier this month. 

More fliers than Memorial Day

Because the Fourth of July falls on a Monday this year, a record number of Americans are expected to fly. 3.3 million people will take to the skies this weekend. In comparison, Memorial Day weekend, traditionally among the busiest travel times of year, saw a total of 2.6 million fliers this year.   

Read More: 43 Million Americans Will Travel During Fourth of July Weekend

Actually, a majority of US travelers will avoid airports altogether over the weekend. AAA estimates that as many as 43 million Americans will travel on the Fourth of July. So the 3.3 million who will fly make up only a small percentage of the overall number of travelers. A vast majority will go by car. 

New targets for terrorists

The recent attacks in Belgium and Turkey have shown a change in tactics for terror groups. Even though there have been many complaints about wait times and heavy-handed screening practices, it appears that security agencies like TSA have been successful in deterring terror groups from attacking planes while they are in the air. At least, that seems to be the case in the U.S. 

What's the next step for security?

However, this has created a new target: pre-security departure areas. Both of the recent high-profile attacks targeted this part of airports. An added layer of protection could be to search cars at the entrance to the airport. This would create additional wait time, but it could catch potential attackers before they reach the terminal. 

Vehicle searches already take place at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, which has not had a major terror attack in more than four decades. This kind of practice, however, could create a new target for would-be attackers: the line of vehicles waiting to enter the airport. 

Increased armed patrols, like those currently being deployed by the Port Authority at New York hubs, could be the best option for shutting down potential attacks quickly before there are too many casualties. 

For this Fourth of July, however, fliers should simply expect to spend more time at the airport, especially if they are flying out of a major hub. The high number of travelers and the added security could create some very long wait times. 


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