RICHMOND, Va. -- Officials with the TSA and Richmond International Airport (RIC) held a news conference Wednesday to prepare passengers for a return to the airport as travel begins to pick up again.
Officials said over the last few months signs at RIC have begun pointing to a return to pre-pandemic travel.
"For the month of April, same time period last year, we had just over 13,000 passengers for the entire month. This last April, we had 209,000 passengers," said Perry Miller, president and CEO of RIC.
But with the return of passengers comes the return of longer security wait times, and officials want to alert people to what's changed since they may have last flown and how to help speed up the process.
Chief among the tips is to arrive early especially if your flight is in the morning.
"Preferably two hours, but at least 90 minutes ahead of time," said Miller.
Once at the security checkpoint, officials said there's a variety of new systems in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, including plexiglass, TSA agents wearing gloves and masks and touchless check-ins
Chuck Burke, federal security director at RIC, said, "We don't touch your ID. All we do is ask you to put it on to a reader and then you just take your mask and drop it down a little bit so we can compare the image to the driver's license."
Officials also ask that people pack smart with their carry-on luggage, and avoid putting anything that could trigger an alert such as too many liquids or carrying a firearm -- a trend that doubled nationwide last year.
Meanwhile, when asked about national stories of TSA staffing shortages contributing to wait times, Richmond officials said while they are trying to hire more officers, it's not at the point they're concerned and have office staff have helped out on the non-screening roles.
And finally, officials want to remind everyone that while mask mandates have been dropped in Virginia and other states, you are still required to wear one when flying -- and that will be in place until at least Sept.13.
If you forgot one at the checkpoint, you'll be offered one -- and if you refuse, you won't be allowed through security.