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Tucson International Airport Tucson Airport Authority Ryan Airfield

TSA Security

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has instituted several changes intended to protect passengers and employees and to limit physical contact during the COVID-19 pandemic. TSA employees are required to wear a face covering, as are all who enter the terminal at Tucson International Airport (TUS).

  • Passengers now place their own ID or boarding pass directly on the electronic reader rather than handing it to an officer.
  • Liquid hand sanitizer containers up to 12 ounces are permitted in carry-on bags but because they are larger than the standard allowance of 3.4 ounces of liquids they must be screened separately.
  • Food is screened separately. Passengers should place carry-on food in a separate clear plastic bag to allow an officer to visually inspect it if it triggers an alarm.
  • Baggage that triggers an alarm going through X-ray screening may require the passenger to restart the screening process from the beginning. To eliminate person-to-person contact, a passenger with a bag that has triggered an alarm for a prohibited item such as a forgotten bottle of water or a laptop that wasn’t removed, may be directed to exit the checkpoint area to either dispose of the item or remove it and resubmit the property separately for screening. In either case, this would require the passenger to return to the beginning of the checkpoint queue.
  • State-issued driver’s licenses or IDs that expired March 1, 2020, or later will continue to be accepted identification for up to one year at the checkpoint. (Separately, to limit in-person visits to motor vehicle offices, Arizona extended expiration dates by one year for standard Driver Licenses that expired between March 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021.)
  • Travelers will be asked to move face coverings briefly to allow the TSA officer to verify identity.

To reduce the amount of touching, passengers are asked to secure personal items normally carried in their pockets (phone, wallet, keys, coins, etc.) in the carry-on they put though the X-ray system rather than putting them loosely in a bin.

Otherwise, the following precautions remain in effect at TSA checkpoints:

  • Disinfectant sprays that are flammable are prohibited in either carry-on or checked bags. (TSA has a “What Can I Bring?” tool here.)
  • There are no restrictions on bringing disinfectant wipes through security.
  • Filled water containers still cannot go through TSA security, however, passengers may bring their own empty bottles and use free water filling stations on the concourses at TUS.
  • Passengers may request TSA officers use new gloves during the screening process. Officers are directed to use a fresh swab for each passenger when testing for explosive material.

More information about the TSA’s response to COVID-19 is here and passenger information specific to Tucson International Airport is here.

There are three Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints at Tucson International Airport; at the entrances to the A, B and C gates. The concourses are not connected post-security so it is important to use the checkpoint for your gate.

Approaching the terminal on the roadway, the C gates are the first you come to, followed by the B gates and then the A gates. Passengers departing on Allegiant enter the C gates checkpoint from the breezeway at that facility. Passengers departing on Alaska, American and Delta enter the B gates at the west end of the departures level of the main terminal. Passengers departing on Frontier, Southwest, Sun Country and United enter the A Gates at the east side of the main terminal.

Checkpoints for the A and B concourses in the main terminal open by 4 a.m. daily, or two hours before the first scheduled flight of the day, and close when the last flight of the night departs. The checkpoint for the C gates is open only when flights are scheduled from that termnal. Security wait times are usually less than 15 minutes except during busy times early in the morning before 8 a.m. and mid-day from about 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Note: Tucson does not observe Daylight Saving Time and airlines adjust their schedules accordingly. From November until early March when Standard Time is in effect in the United States, the busy times are an hour later.)

Information regarding the checkpoint process can be found at the Transportation Security Administration’s website.

TSA PreCheck✓

Specially designated lanes at the entrances to both the A gates and B gates allow passengers who have been qualified through U.S. Department of Homeland Security programs including TSA Pre✓, Global Entry, SENTRI and active duty military personnel to use expedited screening. Passengers who qualify for this will have it noted on their boarding pass with a reference to TSA Pre✓.  At times when there are not sufficient passengers, the TSA may close the PreCheck queue and/or screening equipment. At those times, the document checker will direct qualified passengers how to proceed through the screening process. In some cases, the PreCheck equipment may still be used and at other times passengers will go through the regular screening lane and permitted to wear their shoes but will be required to remove laptops and similar devices from carrying cases. TSA PreCheck✓ is not currently available at the C gates checkpoint.

Special Needs

Personnel are prepared to assist passengers using wheelchairs or strollers and their traveling companions, including service animals, through the TSA checkpoints. Passengers being dropped off and needing wheelchair assistance should request that assistance when making their airline reservations. Due to security regulations, the airport cannot permit drivers to leave their vehicles unattended at the curb while assisting passengers into the terminal.

Security FAQs

What time should I arrive at the airport before my flight?

Arriving 90 minutes ahead of your scheduled departure is usually ample time to check-in, check baggage, get through TSA security and be at your gate 30 minutes ahead of time for boarding. Please arrive earlier if you have circumstances that require assistance. For flights departing 6 a.m.-8 a.m. weekdays and around holidays, the recommendation is to arrive 2 hours ahead of departure due to TSA wait times. The airport will post notices on its website and use social media when we anticipate passengers will need to build in extra time.

What time do the TSA security checkpoints open in the morning?

The TSA security checkpoints for the A and B gates generally open by 4 a.m. (earlier if a flight is scheduled to depart at 5 a.m.) and close when the last flight of the day departs. The checkpoint for the C gates opens 2 hours ahead of scheduled flight departures.

My flight leaves at 5 a.m., TSA's hours don't give me enough to make my flight, what do I do?

TSA schedules its checkpoint operating hours based on information from airlines. Few, if any, flights are scheduled to depart before 5 a.m. and only one or two flights are scheduled to depart before 5:30 a.m. so in most cases passengers can go through security around 4 a.m. and be at their gate in time to board the aircraft. In special cases such as holidays where airlines may schedule earlier than normal departures, the TSA security checkpoint should open at least one hour before the first departure of the morning so if you have a flight that is to depart at 4:30 a.m., the checkpoint for that concourse should be open by 3:30 a.m.

How long does it take to get through TSA security?

Waiting to go through security usually takes the most time. In most cases, waits are less than 15 minutes at Tucson International Airport but during busy hours it can increase to as much as 20 to 25 minutes. Going through security is often a quick process. Don’t be alarmed, though, if you are selected for further screening. Sometimes it’s merely a random selection that shouldn’t take too much time.

What paperwork/ID do I need for security?

At TUS, adult passengers ages 18 and older must present only a current government-issued photo identification. Passengers who are 17 or younger must show a boarding pass issued by the airline. Any Arizona Driver License will continue to be an accepted form of ID for adults through May 2, 2023. As of May 3, 2023, adult passengers are required to use an ID that complies with the federal REAL ID Act such as an Arizona Voluntary Travel ID or another acceptable ID. The Transportation Security Administration has more information about IDs: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/acceptable-ids

What is the Arizona Voluntary Travel ID?

Arizona has developed an optional Voluntary Travel ID to comply with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005. It is currently available so it is an acceptable ID for boarding an aircraft now and will continue to be as of May 3, 2023, when a standard Arizona Driver License will no longer be acceptable. The Voluntary Travel ID can be combined and also used as a driver’s license. Travelers who wish to obtain this enhanced ID may do so through the Arizona Department of Transportation. The cost is $25 and in most cases they are valid for eight years. More information on the Voluntary Travel ID is here.

 

 

What other IDs are acceptable to board an aircraft?

Adult passengers 18 and older must show one of the following valid photo identifications to go through the TSA checkpoint:

  • A state-issued driver’s license or identification card. (As of May 3, 2023, this must be REAL ID compliant, such as an Arizona Travel ID. Compliant state-issued IDs can usually be recognized by a star on the front.)
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • A trusted traveler card (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST) issued by the Department of Homeland Security
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • A photo ID issued by a federally recognized tribe such as the Pascua Yaqui Tribe or the Tohono Oʼodham Nation
  • HSPD-12 PIV card (issued to federal employees and contractors)
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential

Be aware, weapons permits and temporary driver’s licenses are not acceptable forms of identification for travel.

I just got my driver's license and was given a temporary paper license, can I use it to get through security at the airport?

Temporary paper licenses are not acceptable but if you do not have another acceptable photo ID, you can bring the temporary license to the airport as a starting point. Please allow extra time to undergo additional questions and screening.

What about IDs for children? 

IDs are not required for children under 18 but make certain the airline is aware of any children flying so it can issue a boarding pass to get through TSA security. An airline may also have additional requirements, especially if the child is traveling unaccompanied.

What is this about “enhanced” pat-downs?

The TSA uses a standardized procedure for pat-downs that it describes as its highest-level of pat-down. At Tucson International Airport, the Tucson Airport Authority has made private screening rooms available to the TSA for passengers who request them. Information about the TSA’s pat-down screening is here.

May I bring ____(?)_____ through security?

The TSA has answers here.

I am planning to travel with my gun, what should I do?

There are strict guidelines for traveling with firearms and ammunition. They can only be accepted as checked baggage, not as a carry-on. Before coming to the airport, read the rules and regulations regarding the transport of firearms on the TSA website (here). Be aware that although cases must be locked, you are required to declare you are checking a firearm each time you present it for travel and you must be prepared to open the case for TSA, law enforcement and/or airline personnel.

 

Is there such a thing as expedited airport security? 

Yes. The Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck✓ program permits pre-qualified passengers to go through the screening process without removing their shoes or belts or taking  laptops out of carry-on bags. To qualify for PreCheck✓, passengers must be enrolled in one of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler programs. At Tucson International Airport this service is currently available at the checkpoints for the A and B gates but not the C gates.

How do I qualify for TSA PreCheck?

Some Trusted Traveler programs run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection include the ability to use TSA PreCheck✓. A popular program for airline travelers is Global Entry, which has an application fee of $100. Applicants first enroll, apply and pay the fee online and then, after receiving conditional approval, applicants schedule an interview at an Enrollment Center. The CBP’s Enrollment Center at TUS is at 7081 S. Plumer Ave. (at the base of the airport’s iconic old tower with T-U-C-S-O-N spelled out on it). An overview of the CBP’s various programs can be found here but not all include TSA PreCheck✓.

It's frustrating, I paid for PreCheck and qualify for it but it is not open, why?

Ideally TSA would like to have PreCheck open as much as possible because it can be more efficient. The PreCheck process is different from standard screening and requires separate staffing. At slower times of the day, it’s not practical to staff extra lanes for screening. At those times, passengers who qualify for PreCheck go through the regular screening process but can leave on their shoes and belts. You will have to take your laptop and any electronics larger than a normal cell phone out of its carrying case, however. It’s sort of a PreCheck “lite.” The TSA says that as more passengers qualify and use PreCheck it will be able to extend the hours.

 

If I’m not traveling, can I take a child or someone needing additional help through security? 

Airlines can issue a gate pass for these circumstances. The escort must show a valid government-issued photo ID. Allow extra time to get the pass. It’s also a good idea to alert the airline ahead of time.

Is there a way to go from one concourse to the other without going through security again?

No, the A, B and C concourses at Tucson International Airport are not connected after going through the security checkpoints.

How do I find out if TSA has something I lost?

For items that may have been left at a checkpoint at Tucson International Airport or for something you believe is missing from checked luggage, contact the TSA at (520) 799-9313. Lost and Found information for the airport and airlines is here.

I have a question that wasn't answered here, where can I find more?

The TSA has answers to more FAQs here.

 

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Tucson International Airport
7250 South Tucson Boulevard
Tucson, AZ 85756
(520) 573-8100