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Airport passenger levels take off as TSA works to boost workforce by thousands

Airport passenger numbers are on a fast ascent, with Sunday's traveler levels hitting another pandemic-era high.

WASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration is continuing its push to boost the agency's workforce by 6,000 in an effort to face ever increasing passenger numbers as the pandemic's force on the travel industry starts to wane. The agency emphasized Wednesday that it still feels prepared for the steady and expected influx.  

Lisa Farbstein, a spokesperson for the agency confirmed in a statement Wednesday that the TSA expects to continue hiring after the summer and into the fall, and that applications are continuing to be processed.

"We are confident that we are prepared for the summer travel volume of passengers," Farbstein said. 

Passenger numbers at airport checkpoints across the country have recently seen about seven times the number of people as the same time last year, when travel was discouraged due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On Sunday, the U.S. set a new pandemic-era high for air travel, with more than 1.8 million going through checkpoints. That's the highest it's been since March 8, 2020.  

TSA's spokesperson explained "because of the acceleration in vaccination efforts, air travel has begun to strengthen; however, it is still below pre-pandemic levels."

Traveler numbers are expected to continue their fast ascent at U.S. airports into the summer, with a trend forming as eager passengers appear to be booking what has been coined as "revenge travel." As WUSA reported, the phenomenon is showing that people across the country are planning trips to make up for those that had to be canceled in 2020 during the pandemic. Travel experts say we could see huge spikes in travel bookings, as the economy opens back up, and more people are fully vaccinated. 

The TSA and airlines recommend that passengers arrive to airports early to anticipate any long lines at security checkpoints. Travelers can also take advantage of programs like TSA PreCheck to speed up the security screening process at airports. 

Airlines usually recommend arriving to the airport around two hours before a domestic flight, and three hours before an international flight. 

As the TSA continues in-person hiring events at airports around the country, along with virtual ones, the agency said Wednesday that it has not had to layoff or furlough employees during the pandemic. The security agency will continue their hiring efforts to meet the annual goal to hire, as they put it, "as many new officers as we can, as soon as we can, which enables us to plan ahead."

The goal for the TSA is to be prepared, not only for the increase in summer travel passengers, but also to prepare for the expected jump in November and December holiday season travelers for this year as well. 

A list of TSA hiring events can be found here, and applicants can submit the necessary details to be considered for a job with the TSA here. The agency says applicants don't need previous security experience, or experience in law enforcement or the military to be considered and jobs come with full federal benefits.