The Busiest Times of Day for Security Checks at 10 Major U.S. Airports

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a newbie to flying, everyone can agree that the airport security check line is “hit or miss.” Some travelers arrive when the security lines are packed with flyers anxiously watching the time pass closer to their departure. Others may arrive early to play it safe but end up tediously waiting at their gate for hours.

Although it is never a bad idea to play it safe, knowing the busiest times of the day to go through security can help improve the overall airport experience.

Common mistakes that tend to slow flyers down at airport security can be as simple as:

  • flying at peak times
  • choosing the wrong line
  • not utilizing apps that can show wait times in real time

Even staying calm and asking staff for help can save you some time.

Major holidays, such as Memorial Day, can factor into your airport experience, too. More than 39 million Americans are expected to travel during Memorial Day weekend in 2022, according to AAA. Choosing to leave earlier, such as the Thursday or Friday before, is best to beat the crowd.

Stacker ranked the the busiest times of day at 10 major U.S. airports by their maximum average reported wait time in 2022, according to TSA Wait Times, using a combination of government data and traveler-submitted experiences. The busiest airports were identified with FAA data based on total operations from January through April 2022.  

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Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Busiest time of day: 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Average reported wait time: 19 minutes

According to LAWA, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the fourth-busiest airport worldwide and the second busiest in the U.S based on the number of passengers. In 2018, an estimated 78.5 million people traveled through LAX.

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Harry Reid International Airport (LAS)

Busiest time of day: 4 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Average reported wait time: 23 minutes

Formerly known as McCarran International Airport, Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) is the ninth busiest airport in the U.S. with more than 52 million passengers per year. There are two terminals, Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. Matching with the Las Vegas spirit, the airport features slot machines and gambling for travelers 21 and older.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

Busiest time of day: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Average reported wait time: 23 minutes

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) has more than 125,000 passengers per day and 1,200 takeoffs and landings. It’s the eighth-busiest airport in the U.S., according to Airports Council International.

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Miami International Airport (MIA)

Busiest time of day: 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Average reported wait time: 24 minutes

Founded in 1928, Miami International Airport (MIA) is America’s busiest airport for international passengers and freight. Last year, J.D. Power named it the best mega-airport in North America, ranking it #1 in baggage claim as well as food, beverage, and retail.

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John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

Busiest time of day: 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Average reported wait time: 25 minutes

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) offers a great website to track flights, parking availability, hotels, dining, and more to ensure a smooth airport experience. This airport is on the larger side, with more than eight terminals. The airport moves 60 million passengers a year.

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grayscale photo of people waiting in line
Waiting in line at airport

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

Busiest time of day: 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. and 11 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Average reported wait time: 26 minutes

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) is the busiest and most efficient airport worldwide. This global gateway offers flights to more than 150 domestic locations and 70 international destinations.

Denver International Airport (DEN)

Busiest time of day: 4 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Average reported wait time: 30 minutes

Denver International Airport (DEN) is the third-busiest airport worldwide, yet it remains efficient. Travelers should leave time for the train after security, which will transport you to one of three gates.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

Busiest time of day: 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Average reported wait time: 31 minutes

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) is another busy airport, with several modes of transportation throughout. Public transit stations are located in terminals A and B.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)

Busiest time of day: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Average reported wait time: 31 minutes

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) was recently named among the top 10 busiest airports in the world. It services more than 50 million passengers per year and flies out to 178 destinations worldwide.

Chicago-O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

Busiest time of day: 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Average reported wait time: 36 minutes

Chicago-O’Hare International Airport (ORD) has a very accessible environment, with public transportation and the CTA Blue Line station available within the airport. This allows easy access for all passengers in the airport.

This article originally appeared on Stacker.

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About the author

Chandler Franks

Chandler Franks is a freelance writer based out of Denver, Colorado. She decided to leap away from the corporate world and turn her lifelong passion for writing into a profession. Outside of writing, she enjoys exploring other entrepreneurial avenues or spending time with her horses.

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