In this week’s roundup, the Transportation Security Administration is encouraging travelers to join its PreCheck program as screening lines grow longer; the U.K. opens the door a bit to international travel, but not yet for American visitors; Delta and Virgin Atlantic move at London Heathrow as a terminal there reopens; Virgin and British Airways prepare procedures for bringing vaccinated travelers to London; the FAA issues a public service ad to shame rowdy passengers and issues heavy fines against nine more of them; United and Delta will boost service to leisure destinations for the winter; low-cost Avelo Airlines will drop two routes out of Burbank; American expands at its Miami hub; Australia is tougher than ever to get to; new international routes opened up by United, Delta and Air France; SFO offers free COVID-19 test kits for inbound international travelers; EVA Air launches a digital health app for SFO-Taipei flights; and Mineta San Jose is making library e-books available to travelers for free.
As the number of U.S. air travelers continues to rise toward pre-pandemic levels, the Transportation Security Administration is encouraging passengers to avoid long security lines by joining its PreCheck trusted traveler program, which provides expedited processing at the airport. The agency said this week that over the July 4 holiday weekend, the number of passengers screened on one day — July 1 — topped 2,147,000, exceeding the number for the same date in 2019. TSA is hiring hundreds of new airport screeners as it tries to keep up with the growing demand. Overall, TSA screenings during the holiday weekend reached 83% of pre-pandemic levels, TSA said, but there was a big difference in wait times between PreCheck versus non-PreCheck passengers. “Over the course of the long weekend, 99.7% of passengers in standard screening lanes waited less than 30 minutes, and 99% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than 5 minutes,” TSA said. Joining PreCheck requires filling out an online application and then visiting one of hundreds of enrollment centers nationwide for a personal interview. The $85 fee provides a five-year membership; enrollees get a membership number to include on future airline reservations, guaranteeing access to the faster screening lanes. “With some airports already exceeding 2019 travel volumes and many not far behind, we expect the summer to remain busy for travel,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske.