TSA juggles doubled passenger traffic, changes at the checkpoint, ‘minimum staffing’ at RIC

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — As more people get vaccinated, the Richmond International Airport is seeing double the number of passengers come through compared to this time last year, something the Transportation Security Administration has had to prepare for.

The Richmond International Airport saw 209,000 passengers in April 2021, a vast increase from just over 13,000 passengers in April 2020.

“You can see the vast increase. That’s why it’s so important that we tell people that they need to get here at least 90 minutes in advance,” said Perry Miller, President and CEO of Richmond International Airport.

Around 1.6 million people are going through TSA checkpoints per day at airports across the country. It is a significant increase from last year, but still down from 2019.

Masks are still required until at least September 13, and the TSA is asking passengers to empty their pockets into their carry-on instead of the bin to minimize what they’re touching. Passengers will also scan their ID or boarding pass instead of handing it to the TSA officer.

If a passenger is not wearing a mask at a security checkpoint, a TSA officer will remind them to put it on. If they refuse to put it on, they will not be able to go through the checkpoint.

The TSA is also now allowing travelers to bring one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces per passenger in their carry-on bags. The containers will be screened separately, which could add time to a traveler’s checkpoint experience.

Passengers can also bring sanitizing wipes through the security checkpoint.

TSA officers are switching gloves between each pat down and travelers can request that a TSA officer change into a new pair of gloves at any time.

TSA officials are suggesting that travelers enroll in TSA PreCheck if they’re traveling this summer. Airport passengers at the Richmond International Airport typically spend 10 to 12 minutes in the checkpoint process, but with PreCheck the process is shorter.

According to The Washington Post, the acting head of the TSA issued a warning that 131 of the nation’s largest airports will face staffing shortages this month.

“We’re kind of all running on minimum staffing,” Miller said about overall staffing at the airport.

Chuck Burke with Richmond International Airport’s TSA said they’ve been able to keep their heads above water despite the challenges for the organization as a whole.

“The difficulty in keeping up with it is the fact that the market out there is not as readily available. People are not applying,” Burke said.

Miller said the pandemic caused some organizations within the airport to reduce staffing, but they’re in a continuous hiring mode.

“We do everything we can to keep our staff going,” Burke told 8News.

The airport’s also seen a big increase in people showing up to the checkpoint with a gun in their carry-on. The number of people carrying a firearm to the checkpoint in their carry-on doubled from 2019 to 2020.

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