WASHINGTON - If your plans for the next couple of days include airline travel, here's a word of advice: GET THERE EARLY. Security lines were already long Tuesday afternoon at D.C.'s Reagan National Airport, and more of the same is expected as holiday travelers take to the skies.
Extra security is in place at airports around the country following news Monday night that the State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert, warning Americans of possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats. The alert states that information suggests ISIS, al-Qaida, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups are planning attacks in multiple regions.
The alert warns travelers to be aware of their surroundings, and avoid large crowds and crowded places, such as holiday festivals and events. Click here for a complete list of tips included in the alert.
Law enforcement sources say the FBI and Homeland Security have issued a 9-page bulletin Monday night. It is known as an after action report of the coordinated attacks in Paris. The bulletin specifically warns that homegrown violent extremists "inspired or directed by" ISIS in Syria could seek to carry out copycat Paris attacks using similar weapons and tactics, but on a "smaller scale."
The bulletin is placing heavy emphasis on the vulnerability of U.S. soft targets and warns ISIS demonstrated in Paris it has the ability to target beyond traditional "government, military and law enforcement officials and facilities."
As a result of the heightened security procedures, the Transportation Security Administration announced a major change in how long you might have to wait in order to get on your plane. The TSA is doubling their official recommendation of passenger airport arrival times, which means instead of arriving an hour before your flight for domestic trips, you're now asked to arrive two hours ahead.
Locally, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) advises international travelers to increase their arrival times from two to three hours prior to takeoff.
On Tuesday, FOX 5's Tom Fitzgerald spotted a TSA explosives detection K-9 team on the tarmac at Reagan National,following the State Department's warning. There was a heavy police presence out in force. Police officers are not on post outside, but were stationed on shuttle buses bringing passengers to the terminal. Inside the terminal, we have seen law enforcement on Segways and hybrid bikes in order to cover more ground.
Passengers said they have noticed a difference with airport security while Virginia’s governor said the state is remaining vigilant.
"It was heavy with security,” said passenger Tanya Wallace. “They are double checking. I had medicine so they had to run tests on the medicine to make sure nothing was in the medicine and stuff like that. So it took a long time to get through security."
"We are doing everything we can at the state level to work with the federal officials,” said Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D). I can tell you here today in Virginia that I have no specific threats on us in anything that's gone on. But I'll tell you, we plan like there is every day.”
Travelers: What can you bring?
One of the biggest things that holds up the security lines here are people trying to bring prohibited items through TSA checkpoints. They said if they can cut down on that, they can cut down on wait times.
TSA is now trying out some new ways to keep you updated. One of them is a new web tool called "Can I bring?" that you can find on the TSA’s website and app. All you do is just type in an item, hit enter and it will tell you if you can bring it through a checkpoint.
The other way is a new Twitter handle @AskTSA. It is staffed by a live TSA official who will respond real-time to questions, complaints and problems at the airport.
Reserve parking in advance
There is also a big logistical component to the recommended arrival times at D.C. airports. Officials at Reagan National Airport said they expect parking to be in high demand over the next week, so when you factor in that two-hour extra security window, you also need to check on the airport’s website and add in additional time to find parking.
Reagan National Airport's website allows you reserve a parking space before you arrive. It is aimed at taking the guess work and anxiety out of trying to park.
"The great thing about this website is that if passengers see that the garage is full and they have reserved their parking in advance, they are still able to park in that garage even though it's indicating that the garage is full,” said airport spokesperson Kimberly Gibbs.