Recent Terrorism Not The Only Thing That Could Bring Back TSA Delays
Security Lines at JFK Airport (Photo courtesy Thinkstock)
Travelers can expect to see more security at US airports this week after terror attacks in the Midwest and on the East Coast. This increase could mean that fliers will have to spend a little more time at the airport. These slight delays could eventually get much worse, however, if TSA is hit by looming budget problems.
Increased security and a familiar mantra
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has said that extra police patrols will be taking place at New York City airports. Other airports have stated the now-familiar mantra about how they are already at a heightened state of alert.
Given that the last two major attacks on airports took place on the landside (in Istanbul and Brussels), increasing armed police patrols in ticketing and departure areas seems like a logical step. Unless airports decide to start checking IDs and tickets at terminals’ front doors, these security measures won't affect airport wait times significantly.
The return of two-hour checkpoint waits?
So, why are many in the air travel industry warning about the return the kind of two-hour TSA checkpoint waits that plagued American fliers this spring?
Airlines have stepped in at major airports to fund the installation of new, more efficient checkpoints and to provide support staff to make screeners’ jobs easier. However, the biggest reason for the reduced wait times has been that TSA has simply hired more screeners.
[REAMORE] Read More: Congressional Report Says TSA Misconduct Threatens Safety of Air Travelers
TSA’s extra funding could end
Now, these extra screeners may have to go. Congress has yet to pass a budget for the new fiscal year, which starts on October 1. TSA’s new budget, which includes money to keep the extra agents on staff, is part of the larger funding plan that has not yet been given the green light by the House and Senate.
Obviously, in today’s world airport security is a necessity. TSA would not shut down if the budget is not passed by congress this month. Airport security would continue operating. However, it would have to continue operating with the budget that it had before it received money to hire extra screeners. That would mean a return to the staffing numbers that caused such long wait times at the beginning of the year.
Meanwhile, another time-saving strategy has been called into question. TSA has deployed bomb sniffing dogs to help speed up the screening of people and baggage at high traffic airports. An investigation by NBC found that some of these dogs had failed tests meant to measure how well they were able to detect explosive materials.
The problem could be avoided
TSA director Peter Neffenger has said that his agency is getting strong support from the White House. Also, after initially failing to lure fliers, interest in the TSA’s PreCheck program is on the rise. So, it is not all doom and gloom for fliers. However, with two weeks until funding runs out and news of terror attacks bringing more security to airports, wait times could very well increase again before the year is out.
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