CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The busy travel season is here, and the Transportation Security Administration at Charlotte Douglas International airport is observing a volume of passengers closer to pre-pandemic levels.
WCNC Charlotte asked the TSA Tuesday about reported delays in screening. Mark Howell, a spokesperson for the TSA, related it to a perfect storm of issues.
Howell said there was an overflow of travelers after some weather-related cancelations Monday night. Additionally, two guns were found at different checkpoints, increasing delays in those locations.
“This just looks crazy,” traveler Helen Galyon told WCNC Charlotte.
“The United [Airlines] people said this is as bad as they have ever seen it,” passenger Danny Musengo said.
Another passenger was intent on not missing his flight.
“I’m flying today because there was a delay in my flight,” Patrick Gray explained. “So I came early and there is no way I’m going to make my flight.”
Weather-related cancelations and delays cause bottlenecks for logistics.
“We had some pretty big weather disruptions last night,” Howell said Tuesday. “Which caused some cancellations and brought additional volume to the checkpoint this morning.”
Two loaded 9-millimeters were found at two different checkpoints Tuesday morning. CMPD said in both cases the passengers said they forgot the guns were in their carry-on bags. Both were cited for possession of a dangerous weapon on city property.
To ease delays, the TSA is reminding passengers about travel restrictions. Passengers are advised to triple-check their bags to make sure they're not taking any forbidden items through checkpoints.
If you are traveling with a firearm, it needs to be unloaded, in a locked hard-sided container and declared to the airline as checked baggage, according to the TSA.
“They'll give you a small card that you fill out,” Howell explained. “You're going to take that card and put it in the inside of the box with your unloaded firearm and ammunition if you're traveling with that as well.”
“No one wants a firearm inside an airport, on a plane, [or] in the passenger area,” Captain Brian Trull with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's airport division explained.
So far in 2022, 39 firearms have been found at CLT airport checkpoints.
In previous years:
- 106 firearms in 2021
- 55 firearms in 2020
- 74 firearms in 2019
- 76 firearms in 2018
Howell said if this trend continues 2022, is likely to beat last year’s record high.
“If you bring a firearm to the security checkpoint, loaded or unloaded, you're subject to a civil penalty up to $13,900,” Howell said. “And that's in addition to whatever local law enforcement decides to pursue the citation or arrest.”
When a gun is detected, CMPD officers work with TSA to identify the owner.
“If none of those things come back as the gun being stolen, or the person being a felon - where they'd be prohibited under any circumstances from possessing the firearm - we'll cite them for the city ordinance prohibiting dangerous weapons on city property,” Trull said referring to the airport being owned and operated by the City of Charlotte.
“TSA doesn't want to infringe on anybody's right to take a gun with them when they travel,” Howell said. “But for obvious reasons. We don't want a firearm loaded or unloaded in the cabin of an aircraft. So, as long as you pack it the right way… it's safe and it's placed underneath the aircraft.”
When it comes to staffing, TSA said they are in regular communication with the airlines and the airport to make sure they have the staffing they need to support the volume of travelers for the day and make sure they have the right number of lanes open.
The TSA is currently hiring and planning for the busy summer season.