The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been in the news a lot recently. Travelers are experiencing extreme delays of up to three hours due to a shortage of TSA workers. After introducing the TSA Precheck program a few years ago, the TSA assumed that in the coming years, travelers would sign up for the program and the TSA could operate with fewer employees. As TSA employees left, their positions were not backfilled, resulting in a reduced number of TSA screeners for regular travelers. As the economy improved and the price of airline tickets fell the number of passengers increased steadily. It is estimated that this summer will see more air travel passengers than any other time and many travelers are not members of the TSA Precheck program.
The TSA estimated 20+ million passengers would sign up for the TSA Precheck program, but to date, only about 3 million people have signed up. The TSA’s budget cut also means roughly 3,000 less TSA employees. The result, 3+ hour lines at major international airports. It is beginning to be a major problem and it does not look like it’s getting any better. Through the media, TSA Precheck applications are on the rise, but there are not enough employees to process all of the requests. Many travelers are waiting weeks or months for an appointment.
Each major airport appears to be experimenting with private security contractors to assist in the process. At Chicago O’Hare, American Airlines and United Airlines have hired additional personal to help speed up the process. Oakland International Airport has hired 30 contractors to help as well.
Sadly, it appears the fix, which is either more TSA Precheck flyers or more TSA employees is not possible due to staffing limitations. If anyone is planning to travel this summer, it is recommended to arrive at the airport up to 3 hours before departure. TSA Precheck lines has also grown significantly in recent months to almost 40 minutes at major airports. It is an unfortunate situation that could have been avoided through proper planning, but it is the reality of this summers travel and important to be aware of before leaving for the airport.