We’ve all been there: running to catch a flight we’re almost about to miss, only to see that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) line is about a mile long. It seems that most airports run into the problem of long security wait times — but just how long are they really?
We decided to dive into the security wait times at 25 major U.S. airports to definitively determine which had the best security wait times, and the worst. We then created an interactive map of these airports’ wait times, and we even looked into the best and worst times of day to go through security to help you maximize your pre-flight efficiency. Check it out below.
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Map of the Average TSA Security Wait Times by U.S. Airport
We created this interactive map that shows the best and worst security wait times at major U.S. airports. Are you planning a trip to any of these cities soon? Scroll over their location on the map to learn more about the best and worst times to go through TSA at each airport.
This study looked at the U.S.’s 25 busiest airports by total passenger boardings in 2018 to conduct our study, given that these would be the airports you are most likely to visit during your travels.
We used data on security line wait times directly from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which publishes the average wait time for each hour of the day and day of the week. This is based on their historical data, which is updated in 56-day periods. Our data was collected in late Spring. (Note that summer travel is often busier than normal. These numbers give us a means of comparison based on recent, seasonal trends.) Once we compiled this information for every hour at each airport, we calculated day and overall averages.
To find the best and worst times to go through TSA security at each, we searched through every day of the week to find the maximum and minimum average wait time. We only looked at data for 4:00 am through 11:00 pm when determining the best time to go through security, as this time period is most realistic for travelers and is when the majority of flights depart.
The 5 Airports with the Best Average TSA Security Wait Times
Based on our analysis, these are the top 5 airports in the U.S. with the best security 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 by far. So, if you ever wanted to visit some national parks, now you have your excuse.
If you’re booking a trip that goes through SLC, the best time to go through security at that airport is Wednesday from 6 – 7 p.m., which had an average wait time of 2 minutes. The worst time would be Sunday from 11 p.m. – 12 a.m., which would have you 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. Clearly, they’re doing something right!
Of course, it all depends on when you go through the airport. Security lines run the quickest on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10 – 11 p.m. at an average of about 1 minute. On Fridays from 9 – 10 a.m., however, you’ll wait for about 28 minutes in the security line. But hey, even people in the nation’s capital need to go on weekend vacations!
3. Boston Logan International (BOS)
The third best airport with the fastest security wait time is Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), at an average of about 10.6 minutes. It is only slightly slower than number 2 on our list, Washington Dulles International Airport.
The best time to go through security at Logan Airport is Thursdays at 10 – 11 p.m., where you’ll only wait around 3 minutes, whereas the worst time is Friday at 5 – 6 p.m., where you’ll wait a whopping 45 minutes.
4. Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP)
Next up on our 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.
If you’re heading through MSP, try to book your flight so that you can head through security from 8 – 9 p.m. on a Saturday, and you’ll most likely wait only a minute. If your flight has you departing near 2 -3 p.m. on Monday, you have a bit worse luck -the security line will be around 43 minutes long.
5. Charlotte Douglas International (CLT) / Detroit Metropolitan (DTW)
Finally, our fifth spot is a tie between two airports -but the more the merrier when it comes to quick-moving lines, right? Both 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 would be Wednesday from 4 – 5 a.m. (2 minute wait time), and the worst time would be Thursday from 5 – 6 p.m. (29 minute wait time). And the best time to head through DTW’s security would be Tuesday and Thursday from 10 – 11 p.m. (1 minute wait time), while the worst time would be Sunday from 5 – 6 a.m. (33 minute wait time).
The 5 Airports with the Worst Average TSA Security Wait Times
Of course, while some airports do it well, there are the airports who are too swamped to get anybody through security in a timely matter. These were the 5 airports with the worst average security wait times, according to our study.
1. Newark Liberty International (EWR)
Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey ranked the highest on our list of longest security wait times. Getting through TSA at Newark Airport will take you an average of 23.1 minutes.
As with many airport inconveniences, however, there are steps you can take to avoid this wait time. If you’re booking a trip that goes through Newark, the best time to go through TSA would be Friday from 10 – 11 p.m., which had an average wait time of 15 minutes. The worst time would be Monday from 12 – 1 p.m., which would have you 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 between 5 and 6 a.m. on Wednesday, at 8 minutes. The longest wait time in on Sunday from 5 – 6 p.m. at around 51 minutes.
3. Miami International (MIA)
Next up, Miami International Airport has the third longest average wait time, at around 19.6 minutes.
Security lines run the fastest on Sunday from 10 – 11 p.m. at an average of about 8 minutes. On Thursday 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 much worse security wait time than it’s nearby counterpart, Washington-Dulles Airport, at around 18.2 minutes on average. If you need to get to the nation’s capital, it looks like IAD might be the airport to choose to save on wait time.
If you need to fly through BWI, security lines move the quickest on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10 – 11 p.m., at around 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 line is Tuesday from 6 – 7 p.m., which is around 7 minutes. The most tenuous wait time is on Sunday from 6 – 7 a.m., which ends up being 37 minutes.
Security lines can be a huge component of your pre-flight time when it comes to traveling in the United States. There is no way to plan for it perfectly, but we here at Upgraded Points know that the best decisions can be made when they are well-informed.
We hope that this map of the best and worst times to go through security in the busiest airports in the U.S. provides useful information to help you plan your travels in the future.
TSA PreCheck, CLEAR and Global Entry can really help to cut down your wait times at the airport and we would recommend those programs especially if you’re a frequent flier. Don’t forget that there are many travel rewards credit cards like the Amex Platinum® Card that include these benefits and perks.