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Pittsburgh airport security lines can last more than an hour these 3 days of the week

Passengers wait in line to rebook flights or seek refunds at Pittsburgh International Airport on Dec. 27, 2022 after flight cancellations by Southwest Airlines left travelers stranded at airports across the country amid an intense winter storm.
Oliver Morrison
90.5 WESA
Passengers wait in line at Pittsburgh International Airport on Dec. 27, 2022.

Security lines at Pittsburgh International Airport have been stretching so long in recent weeks that some passengers have been reporting wait times in excess of 90 minutes.

The airport is now recommending that passengers arrive an additional 30 to 60 minutes early during the summer, especially for flights that leave in the early morning hours between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. That’s on top of the two hours the airport already suggests you arrive before a flight.

Bob Kerlik, the director of public affairs at the airport, said the busiest mornings are Mondays, Fridays and Sundays. “But if you're flying in the middle of the week, then you're not going to have … those long lines,” Kerlik said.

The reason for the long lines is a record number of passengers: last month was the busiest month of May at the airport since May 2007, Kerlik said. The airport reported 18,255 departing passengers on May 24, the most for a single day since 2019. The airport has seen a rise in flights offered by low-cost carriers, international carriers, as well as some carriers adding larger planes to existing routes, Kerlik said.

But another reason the lines have been so long has to do with the way the airport was designed. The airport’s current iteration envisioned the airside terminal as a hub, Kerlik said, where the majority of the airport’s 20 million passengers would be moving from one gate to the next as they caught their connecting flights. But now, he said, the vast majority of passengers are coming through security.

“It's gone from 5 to 6 million [a year] to about 10 million where we are today,” Kerlik said. “So think about that, double the number of people that are using the checkpoint than really what the original airport was designed for.”

Next spring the airport is expected to have twice as many security checkpoints when it opens its brand new airside terminal.

“No, you won't have to worry about how long the line is at [the alternate checkpoint],” Kerlik said. “[We’ll have] one consolidated area and a lot more security lanes for people to be able to get through much more quickly.”

The airport currently offers 171 departures to 62 locations on 15 different airlines. Southwest, the largest carrier, will offer 298,000 seats in July, the most it has offered since it started serving the airport in 2005.

Oliver Morrison is a general assignment reporter at WESA. He previously covered education, environment and health for PublicSource in Pittsburgh and, before that, breaking news and weekend features for the Wichita Eagle in Kansas.