Last updated: 09:14 PM ET, Sun October 09 2016

How Bad Will TSA Delays Be Over Memorial Day Weekend?

Airlines & Airports | Transportation Security Administration | Josh Lew | May 24, 2016

How Bad Will TSA Delays Be Over Memorial Day Weekend?

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Airports, airlines and TSA are making changes that will hopefully improve checkpoint wait times this summer. Lines will still be long, however, and not all of the changes will be in place on Memorial Day Weekend.

The Friday before Memorial Day is the fourth busiest day of the year for air travel. Last year, 2.25 million people took to the sky on this day. Judging by current airport numbers, this Friday should be much busier than last year. 

The chief economist at Airlines for America, John Heimlich, said that the number of fliers won’t be the only thing slowing security lines during Memorial Day Weekend (and throughout the summer travel season). "It's not  just a volume issue. In summer you get folks who don't fly too often, may not be as screening ready.” 

Even TSA has admitted that things will be slow this summer (and that's with airlines bringing in extra help and additional agents being hired). The agency is advising people to arrive at the airport at least two hours before their flight for domestic trips and a full three hours early for international journeys. 

READ MORE: A4A Predicts Busy Summer, Satisfied Fliers

Recent incidents at airports like Chicago O’Hare, where a number of travelers had to spend the night when they missed their flights even after following the two-hour guideline, show that perhaps the three-hour rule should apply for domestic flights as well on Memorial Day Weekend (especially on the Friday before the holiday). Both of Chicago’s airports, who have been among the worst effected by TSA-caused delays, have actually suggested fliers give themselves a three-hour buffer during the summertime. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, nine percent of Southern California’s Memorial Day Weekend travelers will fly, while the rest will take to the roads. This means that lines will not only be long in Chicago, but also at LAX and other airports in one of the country’s most populous regions.  

Even with long lines, flying is a very tempting option. AAA’s Leisure Travel Index suggests that airfares on the top 40 routes in the United States will be 26 percent cheaper this Memorial Day Weekend compared to last year. The organization also said that things won’t be much better on the roads than they are at airports. 34 million people will drive this weekend, a 2.1 percent increase compared to last year’s late-spring holiday. 

So it seems like fliers who use major airports this weekend, especially on Friday, would be best served by using the three-hour guideline to make certain that they catch their flight even if TSA lines are at their absolute longest. 

Even people who are not flying for Memorial Day can watch to see how TSA handles the weekend. It should give some insight into how they will fare over the summer. 


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