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TSA officials expect more travelers than ever this summer

Ellen Abbott
WRVO Public Media
Hancock International Airport

As Memorial Day kicks off the summer travel season, TSA officials expect more travelers than at any time in the pandemic so far. There are still some COVID rules in place.

TSA’s Upstate Federal Security Director Bart Johnson said the checkpoint experience will be different for anyone who hasn’t flown since the pandemic started over a year ago. There are fewer touchpoints for travelers. TSA officers wear masks and urge people to remain socially distant. Travelers can take off masks for a few seconds so officers can match an individual’s face to a photo ID. But beyond that it’s masks on for everyone, all the time.

"I know Governor Cuomo just relaxed the mask wearing indoors and outdoors, but it doesn’t apply at an airport because of CDC guidance,” Johnson said. “So even if you’re standing outside at the curb you have to wear a mask. You have to wear it in here, at the checkpoint, at the gate and on the plane."

Johnson said airlines are slowly filling planes. Hancock International Airport traffic is certainly up dramatically from last year, but nowhere near the levels of 2019.

"If I was standing here March 2020, the throughput rate here in Syracuse was down 97%,” Johnson said. “It was a ghost town. It stayed like that for several months, picked up in the summer of 2020 and Christmas saw an increase.” 

One area, he said, is lacking.

"What has not come back yet is the business traveler,” Johnson said. “And if you think about it, the reason being teleworking and the ability to teleconference. So that hasn’t come back."

Johnson also said because of the uptick in crowds, travelers should get to the airport 90 minutes before their flight.

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.