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TSA strands 450 overnight: could it get worse?


Airport and airline officials pulled out emergency cots and other supplies Sunday night after delays in crowded TSA security lines left 450 passengers stranded overnight because they missed their flights. The problems just seem to be growing daily.

At the heart of the issue is that Congress cut staffing for TSA by 10% at the same time that air travel is growing. They went on the theory that more people would be signing up for PreCheck, which doesn't need as much staff to process...but the PreCheck numbers didn't grow as much as the planners hoped, and now the chickens have come home to roost—in long lines.

American and Delta have begun deploying their own staff along security lines in Chicago to try to speed things up by reminding people to get their shoes off, liquids and laptops out, etc. but those are only stopgap measures. Even the shift of funds to allow TSA to hire another 768 agents will not bring immediate relief, as agents must be hired and trained.

Perhaps the time has come for the President to declare America's airports a disaster zone?

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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What a mess.  The very agency that is to protect citizens from terrorist activity is creating an environment wherein "tent communities" are springing up at America's airports.   How embarrassing is that.  Talk about a target rich environment for the bad guys.  

The TSA's funding, even with "cuts", is about US$ 7.3 billion for 2016.  In contrast, Canada, which has 1/10th the population of the USA, has an airport screening budget of about CDN $0.56 billion, and Transport Canada acknowledges it has one of the most expensive screening systems in the world.  Seems it's a bargain compared to the TSA.

If PreCheck is the answer, then why doesn't the TSA put more people through that line without citizens having to pay for it?  They have the option of doing so.  There's more to this story, and I don't think the problem will be solved just by throwing more dollars at the problem.  

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

To be fair to the TSA (which I find hard to do), the $7.3 billion is not all for screening, only about half is. That said, while airports are looking to outsource the screening, maybe they should hire Transport Canada!

As for the PreCheck point: TSA can't seem to make up its mind.

When it started, they semi-randomly selected 'extra' people to go through it, on the theory that they would like it enough to buy it—and some did, but not enough.

Then the people who had paid for it started to complain that the lines were getting crowded with people who hadn't paid, and asking why should they had paid when others got it free. So TSA said, no more freebies, and please join and pay.

And then, when not enough people did, and Congress cut the budget anyway, we got the disaster we are seeing unfold.

So, here are my questions:

  • If the full, careful screening is an effective security measure, shouldn't PreCheck be restricted to "trusted travelers" who have been checked out? Should we even have PreCheck?
  • If the full, careful screening is NOT more effective than the level we get in PreCheck, then why not let everyone keep on their belts and shoes and rely on the billions of dollars in scanning equipment to check the bags for laptops, liquids, etc.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

The few US airports that have private security companies handling the screening  are reporting good results and I think that's a good option for the airports. My guess is for liability reasons, airports are scared to dump the TSA.

After seeing the comments by DrFumblinger and PHeymont, I do think we can learn from Canada on this. I did a little more reading on Canada's airport security.  It seems all major airports in Canada have private screening. The airports give out three year contracts. If the screening company is not doing a good job, a different company gets the contract after that.


If you want a thing done, ask a busy man.

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