Our airport passenger throughput data is from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that has authority over the security of the traveling public in the United States.
We provide and visualize the airport passenger throughput data at two levels:
- daily US total;
- hourly airport checkpoint detail.
Both of them are from TSA. We update those data daily. However, whether new data is available depends on TSA’s data publishing schedule. TSA publishes the daily US total data every day with a one-day report lag. Unfortunately, TSA’s publishing schedule of the hourly airport checkpoint level data is irregular. At the ballpark, there is a two-week report lag for the airport level data.
The most granular level of traffic data we present is at the airport security checkpoint level. In many airports, each terminal has one security checkpoint. However, in some airports, multiple terminals may share one security checkpoint.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employs about 43,000 transportation security officers (TSOs) who screen over 2 million passengers and their accessible and checked baggage each day at airports in the United States.
At the airport level, TSOs follow standard operating procedures that guide screening processes and utilize technology such as AITs or walk-through metal detectors (WTMD) to screen passengers and their accessible property. TSA employs an expedited screening program, known as TSA PreCheck® that assesses passenger risk to aviation security prior to their arrival at an airport checkpoint. According to TSA, expedited screening involves a relatively more efficient and convenient screening process for individuals from whom TSA has obtained sufficient information to determine them to be of lower risk and thus undergo an expedited screening process, compared to the standard screening process a traveler may undergo, for whom TSA does not have such information in advance.
At each airport, TSA collects throughput data on the number of passengers screened under both expedited and standard screening and monitors passenger wait times at screening checkpoints. TSA airport officials submit passenger throughput and wait time data on a daily basis to the Office of Security Operations (OSO)’s Performance Management Division at TSA headquarters, which compiles the data through the Performance Measurement Information System (PMIS), TSA’s web-based data collection system.
TSA collects passenger throughput data directly from the WTMD and AIT units. The machines have sensors that collect the number of passengers that pass through each hour, and TSOs retrieve the data directly from the units. All airports regardless of the category are required to enter their wait time and throughput data daily into PMIS no later than 3:30 AM Eastern Time of the next calendar day so that the data can be included in the morning’s Daily Leadership Report.
To monitor operations for all airports, TSA compiles a daily report utilizing a variety of PMIS data points, including wait time and throughput data. The Office of Security Operations’ Performance Management Division disseminates the Daily Leadership Report to TSA officials, including regional directors and FSDs and their designees every morning detailing the previous day’s wait times and throughput figures, among other data points. The Performance Management Division includes a quality assurance addendum with each Daily Leadership Report, indicating missing or incorrect data, and TSA has procedures in place intended to ensure officials at the airports correct the data in PMIS within 2 weeks.
In addition to the Daily Leadership Report, TSA utilizes wait time and throughput data to monitor airport operations at 28 airports in near real-time. In May 2016, TSA established the Airport Operations Center (AOC) that conducts near real-time monitoring of the operations of 28 airports that, according to TSA headquarters officials, represent the majority of passenger throughput nationwide or are operationally significant. TSA requires the 28 airports monitored by the AOC to enter passenger wait time data and throughput data into PMIS hourly (whereas the remaining airports are only required to submit data once daily, by 3:30 AM Eastern Time, as described above) so that AOC officials can monitor the operations in near real-time.
The TSA throughput number includes everyone going through the screening machines at each airport security checkpoint. The majority of this traffic is passengers who depart from an airport with a domestic or international flight. The number includes airline crew members like pilots, attendants, and maintenance technicians. People who worked with airport retailers (e.g. bookstores, restaurants, etc.) are also included. Some airport employees may skip security checkpoints with their special working badges through different doors.
The T100 traffic statistics include monthly traffic by flight (T100 Market Data) or flight segment (T100 Segment Data) by both U.S. and foreign carriers. It counts the number of passengers on a flight or a segment, including both local traffic and connections.
The DB1b data is a 10% ticket sample of U.S. carriers with more than $20 million in annual revenue. Some companies, such as FlightBI, scale up the DB1b input to 100% market size. Such data are air passenger traffic at the true O&D level (O&D numbers).
In general, TSA numbers are smaller than T100 numbers at large hub airports because most connecting pax don’t go through security checkpoints while T100 counts all pax on board. TSA numbers are higher than T100 at small airports because T100 only includes passengers while TSA includes crew members and people who don’t fly at all (e.g. Airport Retailers). Additionally, if a flight is canceled or delayed, passengers on the flight may go through the security checkpoint multiple times.
TSA numbers are generally higher than O&D numbers because
- TSA numbers include crew members and people who don’t fly while O&D numbers don’t;
- Some connecting passengers may go through security checkpoints if they walk out of the connecting airport or change terminals.
O&D numbers don’t count those passengers at the connecting points. Occasionally, you may see TSA numbers are smaller than O&D numbers at some small remote airports (e.g. in Alaska). That’s because those passengers may have got clearance through other channels.