TSA forecasts huge spike in Fourth of July travel for 2021

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The agency is offering tips to help travelers avoid any extra hassle

Airlines and airports are gearing up for what is going to be the biggest travel weekend since COVID-19 hit the U.S., with close to 3.5 million Americans taking to the skies. 

Several airports across the U.S. are witnessing travel returning to -- or exceeding -- pre-pandemic levels. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is seeing the biggest travel spikes on morning flights, when flight schedules tend to be compressed, and at airports that are popular summer travel destinations, such as Nashville, Myrtle Beach, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, and Phoenix.

What to be ready for if you’re flying

Many of the TSA’s travel tips fall in line with recent experiences that ConsumerAffairs covered in our return to pandemic travel. Here are the specific recommendations that the agency is giving when it comes to Fourth of July travel:

Arrive early. Arrive at the airport with plenty of time for ticketing, checking baggage, and security screening. Allotting yourself three hours is a good rule of thumb, especially in the morning hours when more flights are departing.

Wear a mask. Regardless of your personal or state stance on face masks, they are still mandatory for all passengers. That includes when you’re on board a plane and going through airport security screening checkpoints. 

Enroll now in TSA PreCheck. Of all the travel-related apps you should have on your phone, an especially important one for fliers is TSA PreCheck. The app allows airline passengers to avoid removing shoes, belts, liquids, food, laptops, and light jackets at a TSA checkpoint. Note: If you haven’t registered yet, you might not get approval by the Fourth of July weekend. However, it would come in handy for future trips.

Pack smart. It’s not something most people think about, but the TSA says airline passengers who begin packing for travel with empty bags are less likely to bring prohibited items through a TSA checkpoint. Before you start packing, it would be smart to check for prohibited items by using the “What Can I Bring?” page on TSA.gov.

Get things organized before you enter the security checkpoint. Prior to entering the line for the agency’s checkpoint, TSA says travelers should take a few minutes to prepare and organize their personal belongings. You can put your jewelry, keys, and other pocked items in a carry-on bag so they can be scanned with other items instead of being put in additional bins. You should also have a valid ID card readily available and follow the liquids rule of 3.4 ounces or less -- with the exception being hand sanitizer, which has a temporary 12-ounce limit in carry-on baggage.

Follow rules when traveling with firearms. If you’re taking an unloaded firearm on your trip, remember these three things: 

  1. Firearms have to be transported in a locked, hard-sided container and in checked baggage only.

  2. Firearms and ammunition have to be declared to the airline when checking your bag at the ticket counter. 

  3. The container must completely secure the firearm so that it can’t be easily accessed. Locked cases that can be easily opened are not permitted. The TSA added in a special note: travelers should be aware that the container the firearm was in when it was purchased may not adequately secure the firearm when it is transported in checked baggage.

Contact TSA for help if there are questions or concerns. If you have any doubts or questions, TSA says to contact it at (855) 787-2227. Travelers can also submit questions to @AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on weekends/holidays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET.

Don’t act up. “It’s heartening to see the country taking to travel again and traveling to enjoy the weekend and celebrate our nation’s independence,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “We continue to remind passengers to pack their patience and remain calm through the security checkpoint and onboard aircraft. TSA will not tolerate aggressive actions toward our officers; please help us make travel safe, secure and pleasant on this holiday weekend.”

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