Airports calling out TSA for lengthening security lines

If you plan on flying this spring and summer, be prepared for much longer lines at security checkpoints.  Many airports and airlines are going so far as to post warnings to passengers on their websites about the TSA's understaffing and how it is lengthening the time it takes for passengers to make it through security.

USA Today:

Jeffrey Hamiel, CEO of the agency that operates MSP, fired off a letter to TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger decrying the TSA’s staffing. In his letter, Hamiel said passenger volume at MSP has jumped more than 10% since 2011 while the number of TSA screeners nationwide had dropped about 15% over that period.

"Those diverging trend lines — increasing passenger levels and declining numbers of federal screeners — are a recipe for unacceptable customer service. We have reached that point at MSP," Hamiel wrote in the March 3 letter to Neffenger, according to The Associated Press.

Hamiel says security checkpoint wait times of up to 40 minutes have become common at MSP.

Chicago O’Hare also has seen a spike in checkpoint wait times, with some airlines going so far as to post advisories on their websites warning Chicago fliers to arrive to the airport earlier than normal.

"We are doing the best we can with the resources that we have," TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers told AP in response to the complaints from MSP.

However, AP notes the TSA may have its hands tied when it comes to addressing staffing levels. The news agency writes “Congress has capped the number of uniformed screeners for budgetary reasons: About 42,800 screeners nationwide now, compared with a peak of about 50,000 a few years ago, (Dankers) said.

Against that backdrop, the TSA has began conducting more thorough inspections “of people and carry-on luggage since last summer's revelation of startling security gaps at U.S. airports,” AP writes.

Those security lapses, discovered by the inspector general, were frightening:

Since Pistole's departure, inspector-general reports revealed TSA officers missed mock explosives and weapons 67 times out of 70 in covert tests, and that the agency didn't find alleged links to terrorism for 73 aviation workers

"As we have learned from press reports, as well as from numerous briefings, and our hearing yesterday, TSA faces serious challenges that demand strong, permanent, Senate-confirmed leadership," said Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., who added that Neffenger could provide that leadership.

Security officials haven't confirmed the checkpoint lapses. But Jeh Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security, has ordered the TSA to revise its procedures, boost training and test detection equipment.

If the flying public could be assured that the wait times were increasing because of more diligent screening, it would be understandable.  But only 50% in this Harris Poll from 2014 believe that the TSA makes flying safer. 

Nor am I buying the "Congress is at fault" argument.  The loss of a few thousand screeners has been offset by more sophisticated scanning equipment.  The bottom line is that poor management is usually at fault when resources are used inefficiently.  The TSA needs to get its act together before the summer crush turns into a chaotic mess.

If you plan on flying this spring and summer, be prepared for much longer lines at security checkpoints.  Many airports and airlines are going so far as to post warnings to passengers on their websites about the TSA's understaffing and how it is lengthening the time it takes for passengers to make it through security.

USA Today:

Jeffrey Hamiel, CEO of the agency that operates MSP, fired off a letter to TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger decrying the TSA’s staffing. In his letter, Hamiel said passenger volume at MSP has jumped more than 10% since 2011 while the number of TSA screeners nationwide had dropped about 15% over that period.

"Those diverging trend lines — increasing passenger levels and declining numbers of federal screeners — are a recipe for unacceptable customer service. We have reached that point at MSP," Hamiel wrote in the March 3 letter to Neffenger, according to The Associated Press.

Hamiel says security checkpoint wait times of up to 40 minutes have become common at MSP.

Chicago O’Hare also has seen a spike in checkpoint wait times, with some airlines going so far as to post advisories on their websites warning Chicago fliers to arrive to the airport earlier than normal.

"We are doing the best we can with the resources that we have," TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers told AP in response to the complaints from MSP.

However, AP notes the TSA may have its hands tied when it comes to addressing staffing levels. The news agency writes “Congress has capped the number of uniformed screeners for budgetary reasons: About 42,800 screeners nationwide now, compared with a peak of about 50,000 a few years ago, (Dankers) said.

Against that backdrop, the TSA has began conducting more thorough inspections “of people and carry-on luggage since last summer's revelation of startling security gaps at U.S. airports,” AP writes.

Those security lapses, discovered by the inspector general, were frightening:

Since Pistole's departure, inspector-general reports revealed TSA officers missed mock explosives and weapons 67 times out of 70 in covert tests, and that the agency didn't find alleged links to terrorism for 73 aviation workers

"As we have learned from press reports, as well as from numerous briefings, and our hearing yesterday, TSA faces serious challenges that demand strong, permanent, Senate-confirmed leadership," said Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., who added that Neffenger could provide that leadership.

Security officials haven't confirmed the checkpoint lapses. But Jeh Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security, has ordered the TSA to revise its procedures, boost training and test detection equipment.

If the flying public could be assured that the wait times were increasing because of more diligent screening, it would be understandable.  But only 50% in this Harris Poll from 2014 believe that the TSA makes flying safer. 

Nor am I buying the "Congress is at fault" argument.  The loss of a few thousand screeners has been offset by more sophisticated scanning equipment.  The bottom line is that poor management is usually at fault when resources are used inefficiently.  The TSA needs to get its act together before the summer crush turns into a chaotic mess.