Travel Tips

When Are the Peak Hours for Airport Security Lines?

Get through airport security as quickly as possible by avoiding peak times for TSA airport security lines and using our time-saving tips.
May 23, 2024
When Are the Peak Hours for TSA Airport Security Wait Times?

Imagine you’re stuck in a long, snaking TSA security line at the airport, anxiously checking your phone as your flight departure time inches closer. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there. 

To help you start your trip off right, let’s take a look at the best and worst TSA wait times at airports across the U.S. and our tips for navigating security more quickly.

Peak Times vs. Off-Peak Hours at Major Airports

No matter which airport you're flying through, the time of day, as well as the day of the week, can make a big difference in your wait time. Here are some general guidelines for fewer travel headaches:

  • Weekends are the busiest travel days. This includes Fridays during the summer months.
  • Think of airports as similar to highways—they tend to be busiest on weekdays in the early morning and then again in early evening.
  • Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually slower.
  • Mid-day is the slowest time all week.
  • Peak hours may differ based on city. For example, port cities like Miami might experience a burst midday on Saturdays as vacationers on cruise ships return and head to the airport.

A Study on Security Efficiency at U.S. Airports

Interestingly, TSA security wait times vary dramatically depending on which airport you’re flying from. Using iFly data for more than 200 U.S. airports, a recent study determined the fastest and slowest airport security wait times by collecting the estimated wait time from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. for each airport across 7 days. 

So, which U.S. airports are the fastest or slowest? Drumroll, please . . . 

The Fastest Security Lines in the U.S.

First, let's talk about the airports that get it right—the ones where you breeze through security like a VIP, with plenty of time to grab a pre-flight snack or do some duty-free shopping.

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall

Leading the pack is Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall, where the average security wait time is a mere 5 minutes. It seems they've cracked the code on how to move travelers through security quickly and painlessly. 

Detroit and Phoenix: Close Competitors

Detroit Metro Wayne County Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International were also found to have speedy security, clocking in at an average wait time of 7 and 8 minutes, respectively. 

Where Patience Is Paramount: Longest TSA Waits

On the flip side, there are some airports where you'll want to pack your patience along with your carry-on. These are the hubs with the longest average TSA wait times.

Daniel K Inouye’s Notorious Wait Times

Topping the list of airports with the longest security wait times is Daniel K Inouye International in Honolulu. Travelers here face an average wait of 20.5 minutes. That's more than twice as long as the top performers. 

Chicago Airports: Similarly Slow

Hot on Honolulu's heels is Chicago O'Hare International, where passengers brave an average security wait time of 19.5 minutes. Chicago Midway International comes in third, with an average wait time of 18.4 minutes.

Strategies to Beat the Airport Security Wait

Now that you know the average wait times, here are some other steps you can take to minimize your time in the security line:

Enroll in a Trusted Traveler program: Enrolling in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry allows you to use dedicated lanes and keep your shoes, belt, and light jacket on. The time savings can be significant.

Pack smart: Make sure your carry-on is compliant with TSA rules. Avoid overstuffing your bag, which can lead to extra screening. 

Arrive early: Get to the airport at least 2 hours before a domestic flight and 3 hours before an international flight. 

Dress for success: Wear slip-on shoes and minimal accessories to breeze through the scanner. 

Have your documents ready: Keep your ID and boarding pass handy to avoid fumbling at the front of the line. 

Check wait times: Most airports post real-time security wait times on their website or app. Check before you head to the airport so you know what to expect. You can also download the MyTSA mobile app to check delay information and see how busy the airport is likely to be on your specific day and time of travel based on historical data.

FAQs: Best and Worst Times to Go Through TSA Security at Major U.S. Airports

What time of day is airport security busiest?

Mornings, especially between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., see the longest lines as travelers aim to catch early flights.

Which airport has the shortest TSA wait time?

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall tops the list, where the average security wait time is only 5 minutes.

When is the best time to go through TSA security lines?

Hitting security mid-afternoon or late evening often means fewer crowds. Aim for a window from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. or after 10 p.m.

Which days of the week are airports least busy?

Midweek is usually slowest. If possible, book your flights on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.


With a little preparation and insider knowledge, you can navigate airport security like a pro. Remember, mid-afternoons and late evenings are your friends, while weekends and holidays are your foes. Keep these tips in your back pocket, and you'll be well on your way to a stress-free travel experience.

Safe travels!

► You’ll also like: TSA PreCheck or Global Entry: Which Is Best for You?

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