BELLINHAM, Washington — The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) predicts a record number of people will be screened through the security checkpoint at Bellingham International Airport (BLI) this summer, surpassing pre-pandemic 2019 volumes.
After the US government lifted restrictions on travel from Canada in April 2022, the number of travelers departing BLI has steadily increased. In May, the TSA screened more than 30,500 travelers. This is an 11% increase from 2019 levels, when around 27,500 travelers were selected. In comparison, approximately 11,700 travelers were selected from BLI in June 2021.
Nationwide, the TSA is screening an average of 2.26 million people a day, which is a 19% increase from last year’s volumes but a 12% drop from pre-pandemic levels. 2019, when the TSA was screening approximately 2.56 million people on average per day. TSA is seeing an increase in travel volume at airports across the country, leading to the July 4th holiday period.
The busiest times at the BLI checkpoint are daily from 4 am to 6 am; 11:30 am to 2:00 pm and Saturdays from 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm The busiest days to travel are Thursdays and Fridays, as well as Sundays and Mondays.
Flight departure times are determined by the airlines. When there are a concentrated number of flight departures in a short period of time, there will be intervals where 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 personnel resources and adjusting local staff shifts to ensure security checkpoints are open during peak hours.
TSA strives to get travelers through the general security screening process in less than 30 minutes and the TSA PreCheck screening in less than 10 minutes. With that in mind, travelers should know that there is no substitute for arriving early and being prepared for the air travel experience, regardless of which airport you are departing from.
At BLI, TSA is using two state-of-the-art security technologies. The first is a computed tomography (CT) scanner to track travelers’ carry-on luggage at the security checkpoint. This type of scanner offers advanced explosives detection capabilities, 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 3D X-ray image on the screen to allow a better view of the contents of the bag, reducing the number of bag checks required.
When a carry-on is scanned using a CT scanner, travelers can leave everything in their carry-on, including electronics larger than a cell phone and food. Another requirement of the CT scanner system is that each hand item must be placed in a bin for sorting.
TSA also has Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) units installed at BLI. CAT units are programmed to confirm the validity of a traveler’s photo ID and verify flight information in real time by comparing the photo ID’s passenger biographical information with the Secure Flight database.
When travelers approach the travel document verification podium and the 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 as the Secure Flight database contains the names and flight details of people ticketed to travel within the next 24 hours. CAT units are designed to identify fraudulent and tampered documents.
With a significant number of travelers flying this summer, there’s no substitute for getting to the airport early and prepared. Here are some tips to help your security screening experience run smoothly:
Hear guidance from TSA officials. Some people may not have traveled recently, so it is important to listen to the guidance provided at the security checkpoint. There may be information about new technologies that help reduce touchpoints and make the passenger experience more streamlined and convenient, so listen up!
Empty your pockets before reaching the checkpoint. Put wallets, phones, keys, sunglasses and other loose items from your pockets inside your carry-on luggage instead of putting them in a bin. This will ensure that 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 baggage. The general definition for this rule is that if you can pour, spray, pump or pour, then you are subject to the liquid restriction rule. Anything in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces must travel in checked baggage.
Smart package. 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 permitted or prohibited in carry-on baggage, download the MyTSA app and use the “Can I bring it?” 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 when you enroll in TSA PreCheck®. Eligible travelers are not required to remove shoes, belts, light clothing, laptops, electronics larger than a cell phone, or travel-sized liquids from carry-on baggage.
The nearest enrollment center is in Mount Vernon at 2021 E. College Way. It is open from Monday to Thursday, from 7 am to noon and from 1 pm to 4 pm. On Friday, it is open from 8 am to noon and from 1 pm to 5 pm. As of May 2022, 93% of travelers eligible for TSA PreCheck waited five minutes or less to be screened at airports across the country. Another benefit of the program is that children 12 and under can use the TSA PreCheck sash when traveling with an eligible parent or guardian on the same itinerary.
Give yourself plenty of time at the airport. Extra time may be required for parking, at airline check-in counters and at the security checkpoint. There is no substitute for arriving early and prepared.
TSA Hiring TSOs at BLI
Finally, the TSA has immediate openings for TSOs to work at BLI. The starting hourly rate is $19.59. As an incentive to join the agency, the TSA will pay newly hired TSOs BLI $500 at the beginning of the agency and $500 after one year of service with the TSA.
Benefits for TSOs include paid training, annual and sick leave, health plans for full-time and part-time employees and a generous $401,000 retirement plan. TSOs are also eligible for up to $5,000 per year in college tuition reimbursement. The TSA does not distribute benefits to part-time workers, and veteran preference is not required to join the agency.
After six months, TSOs are entitled to salary increases and those who work mornings, evenings and Sundays receive a shift differential. Overtime opportunities, which are paid in an hour and a half, are often available.
To start the application process, visit https://jobs.tsa.gov. In the “Search TSA Jobs” box, type “TSO” in the search box on the left and “Bellingham” in the “location” search box on the right.