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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Record flow of U.S. air travelers expected this summer, TSA chief says

Passengers wait in line at a TSA security checkpoint inside Terminal C at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Wednesday, March 1.  (Tribune News Service)
By Alan Levin</p><p>and Ellen M. Gilmer Bloomberg News

U.S. airline passenger levels this summer are projected to be “comfortably above” pre-pandemic numbers, the head of the Transportation Security Administration said.

With disruptions to the air-travel network from COVID-19 fading, the TSA is girding for what would be a record season for air travel, Administrator David Pekoske said in an interview with Bloomberg.

“I expect that we’re going to see very, very strong demand all the way through the summertime, and that’s that’s what we’re preparing for,” Pekoske said. “It’ll be a challenge, but we’ve faced this challenge in prior years and we’ve been able to be successful at it.”

Airports in Orlando, Dallas, Houston – and East Coast hubs with a large number of international flights, such as New York’s John F. Kennedy International – are expected to be busiest, Pekoske said. High volume during the spring-break period this year is one reason for the projection, he said.

The agency is prepared to use more overtime and will move screeners around the country to the busiest airports to keep security lines from becoming too long, he said.

Demand for flying rebounded sharply last year, but airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration have at times been unable to keep up with demand with workforces that lagged.

TSA has also struggled to hire enough people, but has seen better recruitment results and lower attrition rates so far this year. Pekoske attributed that to pay raises Congress approved last year. The pay boosts kick in in July, but Congress only provided funding for one quarter. Lawmakers must provide more funding in fiscal 2024 and beyond to maintain the raises and keep the workforce satisfied, he said.