Transportation Security Agency under fire for long lines and expected summer waits

Passengers wait to go through security screening at a TSA checkpoint. Photo courtesy of NBC.

Passengers wait to go through security screening at a TSA checkpoint. Photo courtesy of NBC.

Everyone knows the most dreaded part of the airport experience–and the reason everyone has to leave hours before their flight: security checkpoints. The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) is the federal agency under the Department of Homeland Security that is charged with providing security for passengers and freight through airports (in other words, the men and women in the dark blue uniforms who tell you take your shoes off). Recently, they’ve been under increased scrutiny for abnormally long security line waits.


This could cause a problem in summer vacation, with an expected 220 million people anticipate to pass through airports nationwide. In our area, the Port Authority of NJ and NY, which operates LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark Liberty, says about 126 million travelers use the airport yearly.

They will also be receiving an additional 216 TSA agents, part of the 750 new agents being dispatched nationwide in hopes of relieving these lines. These will include canine teams to hopefully speed up lines and allow passengers to move through X-ray quicker.


In JFK, there were 253 instances of lines exceeding 20 minutes in a two-month period this winter, and it could get worse this summer if no change is made. The Port Authority sent a letter to the TSA threatening to use private security contractors in LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark Liberty to handle security screening if the TSA did not fix the problems. The Port Authority runs three of the busiest airports in the country, and other airports may take note of this threat.


Passengers are directly feeling the effects of the long lines caused by TSA inefficacy. Sophomore Perri Cochin was waiting in line at LAX to New York and almost missed her flight, saying, “The line’s are really long, and we almost missed our flight because we were standing in line for almost an hour.”


Junior Jackson Cianciulli had a similar experience at Chicago O’Hare, which has been experiencing some of the worst of the delays, and said, “On top of the fear of missing your flight, you’re also put in a worse mood.”


Airlines have expressed concern because, logistically speaking, it is difficult for airlines to hold flights, meaning passengers may end up missing their flight and need to wait hours, days, or weeks for another flight.
Congress has approved a $34 million dollar funding shift to hire and train new officers and give overtime for current ones. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) called on the TSA Administrator to resign if the problems with long wait-times are not fixed. The Transportation Security Administration has received criticism from the public, travelers, airlines, and Congress alike.