Memphis airport officials expecting huge crowds this holiday weekend

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis International Airport officials said the last week of June was the busiest week for travel since December 2019 with more than 49,000 people passing through the terminals.

“I’m taking a group of divers. We’re actually going Megaladon shark tooth hunting in Florida. We’re scuba divers and we’re looking for prehistoric sharks teeth this weekend,” said traveler Saralynn Turner.

Both airport and TSA officials said they are expecting the Fourth of the July travel period to be busy.

“We’ve brought extra staff on overtime to staff the checkpoints,” said Kevin McCarthy, Assistant Federal Security Director at the airport.

But, with more people, TSA wants people to be more mindful of the items they pack.

“A lot of people are deciding not to check bags because they don’t want to pay the fee. But when those things come to the checkpoint that’s more things for us to screen. A lot of times people will leave things that’s not allowed in their bags,” said Mark Howell with TSA.

Guns, knives, Tasers and even bowling pins are all prohibited at the TSA checkpoint, but officials said all those items have been discovered in the last year.

TSA regional spokesman Mark Ho said in 2020, 48 firearms were discovered at checkpoint security at Memphis International, the most they’ve seen in five years. As of June 30, 24 firearms have been found. About 11 of those were all found in the month of May, and 22 were loaded.

“The mistake we see a lot of times is people just forgetting to go through their bag. They say ‘Oops, I forgot my gun was in my bag.’ That’s 99 percent of the time,” he said.

Howell said they consider all items to be “voluntarily abandoned property,” meaning the owner will not be able to reclaim the items once surrendered to TSA. Eventually, they will be auctioned off. 

Howell said there is a possibility that someone could face a penalty if a prohibited item is found, but it depends on the item. Illegal and dangerous weapons such as firearms are turned over to local law enforcement to investigate but individuals could still receive a civil penalty from TSA.

Thursday and Friday are expected to be the busiest days. TSA officials encouraged everyone to get to the airports at least two hours before their flight and remember masks are still required.

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