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Flying this week? Expect big crowds at upstate airports

Ellen Abbott

Holiday travel season begins in earnest this week, and TSA officials say to expect crowds at airports across upstate New York.

Bart Johnson, the TSA’s federal security director for airports outside New York City, said it’s more important than ever that travelers show up two hours before their flight is scheduled to leave. He said people shouldn’t compare flying this year to last, even though the pandemic continues.

“Throughput rates were down 96-98% and people could literally show up five minutes before and make the flight. That is no longer the case,” said Johnson. “We’re at 100-105%. And it’s particularly challenging in the morning between 5 am and 7 am where it’s more like 110-120%. So it’s very busy."

Johnson also recommends travelers check the TSA website so they know what should and shouldn’t be packed on a carry-on bag. It’s delays like finding prohibited items or having to unwrap gifts that can hold up the lines at security.

"If somebody has an oversized liquid, a bottle of water, they have to pull the bag, they have to pull you aside, they have to check for explosives and then dispose of it, and it creates a lot of issues,” Johnson said. “Just don’t do it. Don’t be that person causing a delay.”

Anyone going through an airport also has to wear a mask while they wait for a flight, and during the flight. Johnson said so far TSA officers at upstate airports haven’t had many issues with passengers over mask issues.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.