TRAVEL ALERT: These Airport Lines Are Growing Way Too Long!

The Issue:

Imagine scheduling a flight at noon and being told that you must stand in line THREE HOURS EARLY just to crawl through the long security checks. Unfortunately, that’s just the status quo at many major airports right now. At New York’s JFK Airport, over 450 travelers were stranded in long lines last week, leaving them to rest on cots during their wait. Atlanta’s wait times got so bad that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a survival guide full of advice of how to deal with their famously egregious airport lines. And with the summer vacation season coming up, airlines don’t expect to make much progress until there’s a generous uptick in security staffing funds.

A recent Skift report warns us: Staffing authorized by Congress for the TSA, which operates security at airports across the country, has fallen almost 10 percent from 47,147 full-time employees in 2013 to 42,525 this year, according to agency data. At the same time, the volume of passengers rose 15 percent from 643 million to an estimated 740 million this year, according to TSA.”

The complaints keep piling up: As one stranded traveler, Kevin Regis, told a Chicago news station, “Got here two and a half hours before my flight, and security took two or three hours to get through.” The Chicago airport, third-largest in the nation, has reportedly caused 4,000 people to miss flights this year. There’s even a whole website dedicated to complaints, called ihatethewait.com. Not surprising, there’s also a hashtag — #ihatethewait– tailor-made for angry, delayed travelers ranting on Twitter. “TSA is our No. 1 problem right now, and it’s only going to get worse,” an American Airlines spokesperson informed the Chicago Tribune.

What’s going on?

Who is to blame for this airport malfunction? TSA says that part of the problem is that the summer rush came a little early this year. Not a good time for the rising trend in dwindling scanner staffing due to Homeland Security budget cuts.  According to a CNN article, international flights are rising in demand, up to almost 7% from last year, with many of these travelers taking off from major hubs like O’Hare and JFK every day.

Another unexpected problem: TSA introduced its Fast Track program,which basically serves as a self-checkout line for security, thinking it would shrink wait times for line-weary customers. In short, it wasn’t a big hit, which put pressure on the dwindling staff of TSA security staff.

The Solution?

Airlines are listening to your concerns! According to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, the TSA is trying to have 768 new security officers in place as early as mid-June, so in less than a month, airlines should be operating at much more efficient speeds. Plus, airlines have been giving generous pay for those staffers willing to work overtime hours. Yes, TSA lines are a huge travel issue right now, so until airports are adequately staffed, leave yourself plenty of time.

 

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