Despite Small Improvements, TSA Screening is Still a Lengthy Ordeal
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has made a lot of headlines over the past few weeks, because as the summer travel season has kicked off, tens of thousands of travelers have been subjected to lengthy security lines — forcing many to vent on social media, and many more to have awful travel experiences.
The TSA has been advising customers to arrive to the airport two hours before departure, prior to domestic flights, and three hours for international flights. Airlines are finally stepping up and being vocal on behalf of their customers, realizing that people who have repetitively poor experiences may choose to stop flying altogether.
READ MORE: Can Airports Really Dump TSA If They Want?
Last week, American Airlines told Congress that over 70,000 of its passengers and over 40,000 of their bags had missed their flights this year, as a result of being slowed by TSA screening.
In Chicago, wait times at O’Hare (a hub for American) and Midway airports have both dropped since May 15, by eight and nine minutes respectively, but they’re still above average. American this month had to roll out cots for 450 of its customers who had missed evening flights because of security lines.
Also last week, Delta Air Lines said they had set up their own ultra-efficient “innovation lanes” to air security screening in Atlanta, their corporate hub and world’s busiest airport. The airline said the lanes speed up wait times at security by providing five divestment points. An automated bin system keeps empty bins circulating and routes bins that alarm the system to a separate area for inspection, ensuring an ongoing flow of people and bins. Similar systems are in use at airports overseas.
Yes, part of the blame for people missing their flights can be placed on passengers themselves. If we assume that people did show up at the airport as early as the TSA recommends, that’s still an absurd amount of time. Ideally, one should be able to get to the airport one hour early and be just fine. Most flights begin boarding 30-45 minutes before departure. Adding a reasonable 15 minutes for screening and the walk to your gate, and you have a realistic expectation of your airport experience.
The TSA screening debacle even has its own hashtag on Twitter — #IHateTheWait. Travelers have shared thousands of photos of snaking security lines from all over the country. The TSA recently sacked its head of security, Kelly Hoggan. NPR reported this was the result of the recent complaints about long screening lines. Hoggan held the position since 2013 — she had also received $90,000 in incremental bonuses in spite of the agency’s poor performance, according to NBC.
The impact of the TSA and its value is debatable. Since being founded in November, 2001, the TSA has never stopped a confirmed terrorist plot. However, the TSA does claim success in the form of sharing the hundreds of contraband weapons and suspicious devices each month on Twitter and Instagram.
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