For many travelers, TSA security checks are the first true test of whether their travels will be a positive experience or not. Going through these checkpoints can be a stressful and time-consuming process that can also contribute to people missing their flights.
Upgraded Points, a Texas-based travel company that provides insider strategies on maximizing travel points and rewards, conducted a study compiling TSA data representing security wait times at the 25 busiest airports in the U.S., to rank the best and worst security wait times.
These results were then compiled, analyzed and placed in an interactive digital map. Both the shortest and longest wait times were found to be non-localized, and are spread out over multiple major airports across the country.
Five shortest wait times
1. Salt Lake City International (SLC) - Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) has an average security wait time of 9.1 minutes, the shortest wait time on the list. When booking a trip that goes through SLC, the best time to move through security is Wednesdays from 6-7 p.m., which had an average wait time of 2 minutes. The worst time is Sundays from 11 p.m.–12 a.m., which would have travelers waiting in security lines for about 26 minutes.
2. Washington Dulles International (IAD) - Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), one of the largest airports in the U.S. by surface area, has one of the shortest average security wait times of 10.5 minutes. Security lines run the fastest on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10-11 p.m., at an average of about 1 minute. On Fridays from 9-10 a.m., however, travelers will wait for about 28 minutes in the security line.
3. Boston Logan International (BOS) - The third best airport with the shortest security wait time is Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), at an average of about 10.6 minutes. The best time to go through security at Logan Airport is Thursdays at 10-11 p.m., when travelers only wait about 3 minutes; whereas the worst time is Fridays at 5-6 p.m., when travelers could wait for up to 45 minutes.
4. Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP) - Next up on the list is Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), which is a joint civil-military international airport. This airport has a modest average wait time in TSA security lines of about 13 minutes. When heading through MSP, travelers should try to book their flight so that they can go through security from 8-9 p.m. on a Saturday, and they will most likely wait only one minute. If the flight has them departing near 2-3 p.m. on Monday, the security line will be about 43 minutes long.
5. Charlotte Douglas International (CLT) / Detroit Metropolitan (DTW) - In fifth place is a tie between two airports. Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) and Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) have average wait times of 13.2 minutes in their security lines. The best time to head through CLT’s security lines is Wednesdays from 4-5 a.m. (2-minute wait time), and the worst time is Thursdays from 5-6 p.m. (29-minute wait time). At DTW, the best time is Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10-11 p.m. (1-minute wait time), while the worst time is Sundays from 5-6 a.m. (33-minute wait time).
Five longest wait times
1. Newark Liberty International (EWR) - Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey ranked the worst on the Upgraded Points list of longest security wait times. Getting through TSA at Newark Airport takes travelers an average of 23.1 minutes. As with many airport inconveniences, however, there are steps you can take to avoid this wait time. When booking a trip that goes through Newark, the best time to go through security is Fridays from 10-11 p.m., which had an average wait time of 15 minutes. The worst time is Mondays from 12-1 p.m., which could have travelers waiting in security lines for about 60 minutes.
2. George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) - George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston, Texas, also one of the largest airports in the U.S., has the second-longest average security wait time in the country, at 19.8 minutes. The shortest wait time in the security line at IAH is at 5-6 a.m. on Wednesdays, at 8 minutes. The longest wait time in on Sundays from 5-6 p.m., at about 51 minutes.
3. Miami International (MIA) - Miami International Airport has the third-longest average wait time, at about 19.6 minutes. Security lines run the fastest on Sundays from 10-11 p.m., at an average of about 8 minutes. On Thursdays from 4-5 a.m., however, the security line lags to about 37 minutes long.
4. Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) - Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) has a wait time of about 18.2 minutes on average. Security lines move the quickest on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 10-11 p.m., at about 2 minutes. On Mondays from 2-3 p.m., however, lines can take up to 35 minutes.
5. McCarran International (LAS) - Finally, the fifth worst airport in the U.S. when it comes to security wait time is Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport, which has an average wait of 17.3 minutes. When traveling through McCarran, the easiest wait time in the security lines is Tuesdays from 6-7 p.m., which is about 7 minutes. The most tenuous wait time is on Sundays from 6-7 a.m., which ends up being 37 minutes.
Daine Taylor, “Here Are the U.S. Airports with the Shortest and Longest Wait Times at Security,” August 16, 2019, https://www.travelmarketreport.com/articles/Here-Are-the-US-Airports-with-the-Shortest-and-Longest-Wait-Times-at-Security