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TSA offers advice to air travelers departing Bellingham International Airport during the record-breaking summer travel season

BELLINGHAM, Washington – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) anticipates a record number of people will be screened through the security checkpoint at Bellingham International Airport (BLI) this summer, surpassing 2019’s pre-pandemic volumes.

After the U.S. government lifted restrictions on travel from Canada in April 2022, the number of travelers departing BLI has steadily increased. In May, TSA screened more than 30,500 travelers. This is an 11% increase over 2019 levels when about 27,500 travelers were screened.June 2022 is on pace to be the busiest June on record with an estimated 31,000 travelers projected to be screened. By comparison, approximately 11,700 travelers were screened at BLI in June 2021.

Nationwide, TSA is screening an average of 2.26 million people per day, which is a 19% increase over last year’s volumes, but down 12% from pre-pandemic 2019 levels when TSA was screening approximately 2.56 million people on average per day. TSA is seeing increasing travel volumes at airports nationwide leading into the Fourth of July holiday period.

The busiest times at the checkpoint at BLI are daily 4 a.m. to 6 a.m.; 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 12:30 to 2 p.m. The busiest days to travel are Thursdays and Fridays as well as Sundays and Mondays.

Flight departure schedules are determined by the airlines. When there is a concentrated number of flight departures over a short period of time, there will be intervals when the number of departing passengers may exceed the capacity of the TSA security checkpoint for a period of time. To address this, TSA is utilizing national staffing resources and adjusting the shifts of local staff to ensure security checkpoint lanes are open during peak times.

TSA strives to get travelers through the general security screening process in less than 30 minutes and through TSA PreCheck screening in less than 10 minutes. With this in mind, travelers should know that there is no substitute for arriving early and prepared for the air travel experience, regardless of what airport you are departing from.

Security technologies

CT scanner photo
Computed tomography scanner in the security checkpoint at BLI.

At BLI, TSA is using two state-of-the-art security technologies. The first is a computed tomography (CT) scanner to screen travelers’ carry-on luggage in the security checkpoint. This type of scanner provides advanced explosives detection capabilities by applying a sophisticated algorithm to generate a 3-D image of the contents of the carry-on bag. A security screening officer can manipulate the 3-D X-ray image on-screen to allow for a better view of the bag’s contents, ultimately reducing the number of bag checks that are required.

 When a carry-on bag is screened through a CT scanner, travelers can leave everything in their carry-on bag, including electronics larger than a cell phone and food. Another requirement of the CT scanner system is every carry-on item must be placed in a bin for screening.  

TSA also has Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) units in place at BLI. CAT units are programmed to confirm the validity of a traveler’s photo identification and confirm flight information in real-time by matching the passenger’s biographical information from the photo ID against the Secure Flight database.  

When travelers approach the travel document checking podium and CAT is in use, they will either insert their own photo ID into the CAT unit or hand over their photo ID to the security screening officer. There is no need for a boarding pass at this point since the Secure Flight database contains the names and flight details for people ticketed to travel in the next 24 hours. CAT units are designed to identify fraudulent documents and those that have been tampered with.

Travel advice
With significant number of travelers flying this summer, there is no substitute for arriving at the airport early and prepared. Here are some tips to help your security screening experience go smoothly:

Listen for guidance from TSA officers. Some people may not have traveled recently, so it is important to listen to the direction provided in the security checkpoint. There may be information on new technologies that help reduce touchpoints and make for a more streamlined and convenient passenger experience, so listen up!

Empty your pockets prior to arriving in the checkpoint. Place wallets, phones, keys, sunglasses and other loose items from your pockets inside your carry-on bag instead of placing them in a bin. This will ensure personal items are not left behind.

Follow the rule for traveling with liquids. Gels, liquids and aerosols are limited to 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or less in carry-on luggage. The general definition for this rule is that if you can spill it, spray it, pump it or pour it, then it is subject to the liquids restriction rule. Anything in quantities larger than 3.4 ounces should travel in checked baggage.

Pack smart. Travelers should be aware of the contents of their carry-on bags and make sure they are not bringing prohibited items to the security checkpoint. To determine whether an item is allowed or prohibited in carry-on luggage, download the MyTSA app and use the “Can I Bring?” feature. Another option is to contact @AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger to get answers to your travel questions.

Enroll in TSA PreCheck®. Experience a smoother screening process by enrolling in TSA PreCheck®. Eligible travelers do not need to remove shoes, belts, light outerwear, laptops, electronics larger than a cell phone or travel-size liquids from carry-on luggage.

The closest enrollment center is in Mount Vernon at 2021 E. College Way. It is open Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. On Friday, it is open 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. In May 2022, 93% of travelers eligible for TSA PreCheck waited five minutes or less to be screened at airports nationwide. Another benefit of the program is that children 12 and under are permitted to use the TSA PreCheck lane when traveling with an eligible parent or guardian on the same itinerary.

Give yourself plenty of time at the airport. Extra time may be needed for parking, at airline check-in counters and in the security checkpoint. There is no substitute for arriving early and prepared.

TSA hiring TSOs at BLI
Finally, TSA has immediate openings for TSOs to work at BLI. The starting hourly rate is $19.59. As an incentive to join the agency, TSA will pay newly-hired TSOs at BLI $500 upon starting with the agency and $500 after one year of service with the TSA.

Benefits for TSOs include paid training, annual and sick leave, health care plans for full- and part-time employees and a generous 401k retirement plan. TSOs are also eligible for up to $5,000 per year in college tuition reimbursement. TSA does not prorate benefits for part-time workers, and veteran’s preference is not required to join the agency.

After six months, TSOs are eligible for pay increases and those who work early mornings, evenings and Sundays receive a shift differential. Overtime opportunities, which are paid at time and a half, are frequently available.

To begin the application process, visit https://jobs.tsa.gov.  In the “Search TSA jobs” box, enter “TSO” in the search box to the left and “Bellingham” in the “location” search box to the right.

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