Spring Break TSA Travel Tips

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) anticipates steady passenger volumes through its security checkpoints at Portland International Airport (PDX) during an extended spring break travel season.

Nationally, the spring break travel season began in late February with higher than normal travel volumes at airports across the country. The spring break travel season continues and is expected to impact departing travel volumes at PDX starting later this week through early April.

The busiest days for security operations are Sundays and Mondays as well as Thursdays and Fridays. The busiest times at the security checkpoint are 4 a.m. to 7 a.m.; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. to midnight.

On peak travel days, TSA at PDX is projected to screen in excess of 25,000 departing travelers. This is a 15% increase over usual travel volumes. The busiest day for spring break travel at PDX is expected to be Friday, March 24 when more than 26,000 are projected to be screened.

The security checkpoints at PDX open no later than 3:45 a.m. daily. Due to several flights departing early in the morning, travelers can expect to encounter large numbers of people who need to be screened first thing in the morning. However, travelers can expect to see a steady flow of travelers at the security checkpoints throughout the day.

“Spring break travel consistently brings a high number of travelers departing PDX. We have come to expect this and plan for it operationally each year,” said TSA Federal Security Director for Oregon Kathleen McDonald. “Every step of the travel will take extra time during the spring break travel period, so please be sure to arrive at the airport early and prepared to ensure smooth travels.”

TSA at PDX staffs the security checkpoints based on the number of travelers projected to depart the airport at various times during the day. Be sure to check your departure gate and ensure you are being screened through the correct security checkpoint. The BC checkpoint leads to the B and C gates; the DE checkpoint leads to the D and E gates.

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. In February 2023, 90% of TSA PreCheck passengers nationwide waited less than five minutes to be screened. Another advantage of TSA PreCheck is children 12 and under are eligible to be screened with a TSA PreCheck-eligible parent or guardian on the same itinerary.

Security technologies in use at PDX

TSA is using Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) to assist in the travel document checking process at PDX. CAT units are designed to scan a traveler’s photo identification, confirm the traveler’s identity and verify that the traveler is ticketed for travel that day. CAT also displays the pre-screening status (such as TSA PreCheck) the traveler is eligible for, all without the traveler presenting a boarding pass to the TSA officer.

The use of CAT improves a TSA officer’s ability to accurately authenticate a traveler’s identification while addressing the vulnerabilities associated with photo identification and boarding pass fraud. CAT also provides enhanced fraudulent document detection capabilities. TSA is also using computed tomography (CT) X-ray scanners to screen travelers’ carry-on luggage in the security checkpoints. 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 and travel-size liquids. Another requirement of the CT scanner system is every carry-on item must be placed in a bin for screening.

Travel advice

TSA continues to ask travelers to arrive early and prepared for the screening experience to allow for timely completion of every step of the travel process. To help things go smoothly, please follow these tips:

#1: Pack smart.

Prepare for security when packing and ensure that there are no prohibited items in carry-on luggage. Bringing prohibited item to the security checkpoint will result in a bag check, slowing the screening process for you and all travelers behind you.

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

#3: Know the rules for traveling with liquids

TSA defines a liquid as anything that can be spread, spilled, pumped or poured. If the quantity of that item exceeds 3.4 ounces (which is 100 ml), pack it in a checked bag. Any liquid over this size will result in a bag check, slowing the line for everyone. Bring an empty water bottle thru the security checkpoint so you can fill it post-security.

#4: 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. TSA officers provide guidance on security technologies in use at PDX Listen up for a more streamlined and convenient passenger experience!

#5. Text TSA.

TSA now offers assistance via text message to travelers who have with questions about security screening via text message. From any mobile device, a travel can text their request to “AskTSA” (275-872). A virtual assistant is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For more complicated questions, AskTSA staff are available daily for live assistance from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. PST. Passengers may still reach out to @AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger with questions and comments.

# 6: Download the free myTSA app.

The myTSA app is a trusted source for last-minute travel questions, providing travelers with 24-hour access to the most frequently requested airport security information. It also features a searchable “Can I Bring” database where you can enter the name of an item and find out if you should pack it in your checked or carry-on bag. The app is available from the App Store or Google Play.

#7. Show gratitude to frontline workers.

Thank a TSA officer, a flight attendant, a gate agent or someone who serves at the frontlines of aviation transportation. They are working hard so you are able to travel during the busy spring break travel season. Please pack an extra dose of patience, especially during higher passenger volume travel days, and show gratitude to those who are working diligently to get everyone to their destinations safely and securely.

Tips For Traveling With A Pet

With the spring break travel period upon us, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is expecting to see a marked increase in the number of pets brought to the security checkpoint at Portland International Airport (PDX). Traveling through the security checkpoint with your pet can be easy when you know what to expect.

“We at TSA want to make sure that travelers know that if they are planning to travel with the family pet, we have procedures in place to make the security screening process simple for all,” said TSA Federal Security Director for Oregon Kathleen McDonald. “Becoming familiar with the procedures and how to clear security quickly and easily is the first step to embarking on a great trip with your pet.”

Over the past few months, TSA has seen incidents where pets have been screened through an Xray unit in the checkpoint. While this happens relatively infrequently and the pets were fortunately unharmed, in every case, the pets should not have been screened through by X-ray.

Small pets can travel in the cabin of the aircraft with their owners. TSA will screen pets via the security checkpoint. Below is what pet owners can expect:

All pets should be brought to the security checkpoint in a hand-held travel carrier. Remove the pet from the carrier just prior to the beginning of the screening process.

  • Place the empty travel carrier so it can be x-rayed.
  • Never place a pet in the x-ray tunnel. The x-ray at the security checkpoint is used to screen passengers’ personal property and carry-on luggage only.
  • If possible, carry the pet during the screening process. Alternately, a pet can walk through the screening process if the owner has the pet on a leash.
  • A TSA officer will give the pet owner’s hands an explosive trace detection swab to ensure there is no explosive residue on the owner’s hands.
  • Once the screening process is complete, owners should return the pet to the travel carrier at the re-composure area away from the security checkpoint. This location helps ensure the safety of the pet as well as other passengers.

For pet owners who do not want to remove your pet from the carrier because they are worried about your pet running away in an open area, they can ask the TSA officer for a private screening with the owner and the pet.

  • Other helpful travel tips to make the trip thru security as easy as possible include:
  • Acclimate the pet to the process of traveling by familiarizing it with the travel carrier in the days leading up to the trip. This familiarization will help ensure the pet is more relaxed as it travels through the security process and the airport.
  • Be on the lookout for “working” K9s and handlers at the airport. Areas where it is common to see a working K9 at airports may include a security checkpoint or in the terminal concourse.
  • Know the temperament of your pet and ensure that you can maintain control of it in a busy and potentially crowded transportation environment.
  • Familiarize yourself with the pet relief areas at PDX including:
  • Baggage claim at south end of the terminal’s lower level (pre-security)
  • If departing from B and C gates, area adjacent to the Alaska Lounge
  • If departing from D or E gates, area across from gate D5

Pet travel restrictions vary by airline, so please check with your air carrier before traveling with your pet. For information on traveling with service animals or for other special circumstances, please reach out to the TSA Contact Center by calling 866-289-9673 or by emailing TSAContactCenter@tsa.dhs.gov.

Source: Transportation Security Administration

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