Salt Lake airport lines stay short on busiest day of holiday season

Dec 22, 2023, 12:00 PM | Updated: 12:15 pm

Say goodbye to the pandemic-era drop in air travel, because this could be the biggest holiday seaso...

Travelers wait in line for the TSA checkpoint at Salt Lake City International Airport. (Adam Small/KSL NewsRadio)

(Adam Small/KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY– Say goodbye to the pandemic-era drop in air travel, because this could be the biggest holiday season for U.S. airlines ever.

Triple A predicts that 7.5 million people will be taking to the skies throughout December this year. The previous record was 7.3 million fliers in 2019.

Flight attendant Jennifer Saena said the difference is noticeable.

“I used to work during Covid time,” said Saena. “And compared to then, there was no one in the airport. But now, all the flights are pretty much oversold or full.”

It’s easy to get frustrated while traveling during the holidays, but Saena said it doesn’t bother. 

“I feel like a lot of people are a lot more impatient. Just because dealing with sick people, dealing with traffic, long lines. It doesn’t bother me, but I’ve noticed a lot more impatient people,” she said. 

Today is one of the busiest days in an already-bustling holiday season, along with Thursday, December 21, and the two days immediately following Christmas. 

“So far today,” said Federal Security Director for Utah’s TSA, Matt Davis, “we’re projecting probably in the neighborhoods of around 31,000, almost 32,000 passengers flying out today. Yesterday was about 32,000 as well… We’ll probably see that through Saturday… and then it will start tapering off as we get closer to the holiday.”

Despite the increase of travelers, these lines haven’t looked like the ones at Disneyland. Deputy to the Federal Security Director Mac Carter said the longest wait yesterday was 16 minutes.

That’s thanks to the heavy coordination by the airlines, airport, and TSA staff.

“So as the projections and the loads go up,” said Davis, “we try and make sure we have as many officers on hand as we can.”

Lowering stress: what passengers can do

TSA has some recommendations for keeping passengers moving smoothly through the security screens.

That includes keeping gifts unwrapped and in gift bags and using the TSA webpage to check problem carry-on items. Also, don’t forget to put anything over 3.4 ounces that sprays, spreads, pumps or pours in your checked bag. You can find the full list here.

But Davis said there’s one necessity above all the rest.

“Double-check your bags,” said Davis. “We’ve already had a few bags that have needed longer than normal bag searches because they have items in their bag that really never can go beyond the checkpoint and yet they don’t check. One gentleman told us, ‘I just took that bag camping.’ Yes, exactly. Please check your bags before you get to the airport.”

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Salt Lake airport lines stay short on busiest day of holiday season