TSA head: Airports will still be understaffed for summer
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (KMSP) - The head of Transportation Security Administration warned Congress Wednesday airports across the country will still be understaffed during peak summer travel season.
TSA reps, however, have made some progress shortening lines.
In recent weeks, thousands of flyers across the country missed their flights due to lines up to two hours long.
The issue is one travelers dealt with at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport during spring break when 40,000 traveler were screened daily.
With about 10,000 less people currently traveling, MSP Airport reps are still seeing lines at 45 minutes or longer. Wait times they, and members of Congress, would rather not see.
"This is unacceptable and it's time for congress to act," said Rep. Michael Thomas McCaul of Texas who sits as a Homeland Security Committee member.
On Wednesday, McCaul demanded answers from the head of Transportation Security Administration about the excessively long lines we've seen at airports across the country.
McCaul was open about the fact the issue of long lines is a tough one to balance as TSA deals with threats.
"Terrorists are trying to bring down airplanes, and the aviation sector is their crown jewel target," McCaul admitted.
Meanwhile, a variety of factors are to blame for massive security lines, TSA reps say, as they search for long-term solutions.
"Clearly, the summer travel season is going to be busy," TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger said. "In the short term, TSA, airlines, airports, Congress and travelers working together can improve the passenger experience while we maintain the security we need."
TSA plans to add more than 700 new screeners by mid-June.
Even with an anticipated surge in passengers over the past few weeks, Neffenger also admits better planning could have helped limit lines.
"It was a failure to get some things done in advance of that. And we've proved that by fixing it pretty quickly."
MSP Airport spokesperson Pat Hogan told FOX 9 during Memorial Day weekend they only expect to screen an average of 28,000 people a day.
They do, however, suggest you arrive two hours before your flight is expected to board, to avoid excessive wait times.
"TSA operations at MSP are going well as we head into the Memorial Day weekend," TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers said in a statement to Fox 9. "Passengers have adjusted to the two security checkpoint configuration in Terminal 1 with both checkpoints offering general screening as well as TSA PreCheck expedited screening for eligible passengers."
Dankers adds an "average" 30,000 passengers are screened by TSA officers at MSP each day.
Across the country, an average 2.4 million passengers are screened daily.
Here's what Dankers says you can expect at the airport if you're flying this Memorial Day weekend:
Dankers also advises it's best travelers arrive earlier than they normally would.
"Please plan to arrive two hours prior to your flight departure," Dankers said. "This will allow plenty of time to park your vehicle, check a bag with the airline, print your boarding pass, go through security and get to your gate. All of these steps take time and with more passengers, the processes can be slower than usual."