Hundreds Of Passengers Missing Flights At U.S. Airports Over TSA Queues And Delays

Passenger missing flights over security queues

To avoid missing flights, travelers are advised by the TSA to arrive at airports two hours prior to departure for domestic and three hours prior for international flights.

Due to ever-lengthening airport security queues, hundreds of passengers across the U.S. are missing flights. Reportedly, this can only get worse during the summer months. The reason for the delays and passengers missing their flights is the ever-increasing number of passengers, with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners understaffed and unable to cope with the influx.

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, the TSA will be hiring around 800 new officers, along with more part-time and overtime workers, in an attempt to ease the problem. However, the union that represents security officers says this is not enough and that at least 6,000 more full-time officers are necessary to reduce the problem.

Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, and New York are among some of the airports experiencing the jams and backlogs, with Phoenix’s airport threatening to ditch TSA staff and hire its own private screeners.

Reportedly on Sunday alone, 450 American Airlines passengers missed their flights at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport due to security screenings that took over two hours. According to Leslie Scott, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, they had to provide camp beds for clients missing flights, who couldn’t manage to get on to a later plane. The airline also said that, during March, around 6,800 of their passengers were forced to miss flights due to the lengthy wait.

In a recent report, International Business Times quoted one such passenger affected by delays. Reportedly, when Erin Walton of Rockford left Midway Airport on Thursday, she and her family queued in the line for over two hours and barely made their flight to Dallas. Walton said that, on their return, they arrived early Monday at the Dallas airport to ensure they could get their flight back to Chicago, but they encountered long lines there, too.

Walton said, “The lines move, but they are so long, it appears they don’t have a lot of staff. We manage it because we know security checks are necessary. We just try to endure.”

According to Chicago aviation department spokesman Owen Kilmer, the TSA budgeted for 15 canine units at two of Chicago’s airports, as this can cut down on queues since the dogs can sniff passengers for explosive materials.

However, the city does not know when the airports will get the new canine units, and currently there are only four assigned at O’Hare and one at Midway. Kilmer said that at the latter airport last week, health issues relating to a dog and its handler meant the airport had none.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said at a press conference at the Reagan National Airport outside Washington, “We encourage people to have the appropriate expectations when they arrive at airports. Contemplate increased wait times as you travel.”

Johnson explained that security at airports cannot be compromised, saying obviously waiting three hours for a two-hour flight is unacceptable and “it’s not a good thing and it taxes everyone’s patience.”

However, he added, “We want to keep passengers moving, but we want to keep passengers safe.”

Reportedly American Airlines and United are hiring extra staff to carry out non-security TSA functions, including moving bins and reminding travelers to remove their shoes.

According to the TSA, they underestimated the growth in passenger numbers, leading to travelers missing their flights, and they haven’t been able to keep up by hiring sufficient staff.

However, the TSA has introduced a new program to try to alleviate the problem. Reportedly the new solution to beating long security lines is an $85 program, dubbed Pre-check by the TSA, which asks passengers to complete a form with their basic details for submission to a regular screening in advance.

This process would allow passengers to head to an expedited line without having to remove items like laptops or liquids from their luggage and will hopefully speed up the queues and avoid passengers missing flights.

[Photo via Flickr by Josh Hallett, cropped and resized/CC BY 2.0]