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End of the Line

Airport Security Lines So Long, Passengers Are Missing Flights

May 12, 2016

Snakes on a Terminal? Don’t forget to arrive 6 hrs early!

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a distinguished American literalist, but he let us down when he wrote about life being more about “the journey, not the destination.” 
Perhaps that’s being too harsh. In Emerson’s defense, he lived at a time when Thomas Cook was promoting sophisticated travel – and hence was denied the opportunity of spending hours in airport security lines. 
Were he alive now, he would realize that the joy of the journey has become a false promise.

TSA: Arrive Early and Still Miss Your Flight!

Lately though,there have been a swarm of articles about the airlines’ new-found concern about passengers stuck in long airport security lines – too many articles to be a coincidence.

These delays are costing the airlines money. American Airlines says that 6,800 missed flights in one week in March because of delays getting through airport security checkpoints. And the airlines are now concerned long airport lines might discourage air travel.

The latest helpful advice from the airlines for dealing with what could be a hellish summer at America’s airports is forpassengers to arrive maybe three hours early just to get through security and catch their flights. At this rate, the lines will stretch from your departure point to your destination, and you’ll be able to avoid the airplane altogether!

“We are really concerned about what happens in the summer,” fretted Ross Feinstein, spokesman for American Airlines. “Lines grew in January, February and March, and now in April, too.”

The irony here is that Feinstein used to be a TSA spokesman. Back then, he never saw a security logjam or checkpoint fiasco that he couldn’t blame on “customers.” 

This week, CNBC ran a piece with an unthinkable recommendation from two US senators – that the airlines suspend their bag fees.

Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey and Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal asked executives at 12 airlines to drop checked-bag fees this summer.

Stopping the airlines from forcing passengers to bring onboard their bags due to charging outrageous fees for checking them is a great start. This backlog is the fault of the airlines. And stop the idiotic shoe removal. Flying is a nightmare. There’s no “security” reason for this.

However, a spokeswoman for the airlines’ lobbying group said this proposal was a misguided attempt to re-regulate airlines and could make airline travel more expensive – that fares would rise to offset the loss of bag fees. This is not the case, however. 

Cue The Blame For Long Airport Lines on TSA ‘Budget Cuts’

Almost any time a government agency or program fails to perform, those involved complain that they don’t have enough money to properly do their jobs.

Criticism for the debacle is said to be stingy budgets and cutbacks at the TSA.  As The New York Times put it: “A combination of fewer Transportation Security Administration screeners, tighter budgets, new checkpoint procedures and growing numbers of passengers is already creating a mess at airports around the country.”

Except it’s not true. TSA’s budget is 9% higher this year (at $7.3 billion), than it was in 2007. Its full-time workforce climbed by 4.3% over those years, according to official budget documents.

Well, at least they’re making air travel safer?

In the name of “security” TSA is creating perfect targets for a terror attack. Security theater is making the situation more insecure. The waiting masses are an excellent target for a bomb – more packed together than in Brussels two months ago.

I wonder if it is TSA’s underhanded way of promoting PreCheck?

Is the TSA making wait times so bad that they are deliberately trying to force people to pay $85, and get fingerprinted just to exercise their inherent right to travel in a reasonable time?

It seems that the response to the paranoia created after 9/11 and subsequent bombing attempts was to clampdown on innocent passengers. We are all terrorists. 

Suffice it to say, PreCheck and Global Entry are not what they are cracked up to be. They don’t always get users out of the general screening lines, and there are too many airports where PreCheck and Global Entry are not used. In fact, one of FlyersRights editors was recently in Maui during the January tourist crush season and there was no TSA PreCheck (or airline premium passenger) lines. The wait time was nearly an hour.

Airport screening can and should do so much better. Congress: Fund the current system as-needed while you implement its overhaul. Think about how you would design a security system from the ground up if you were starting with all our current knowledge. Address the obvious flaws of the current system and of TSA. Do you want a bipartisan outcome that most Americans’ can rally around; or do you want another government system that doesn’t work?

There you have it. And you can even do it in an election year. You’re welcome.


In response to last week’s newsletter: Family Feud

Dear FlyersRights: 

My family of six recently flew on American Airlines and it was awful. When we booked our tickets we weren’t allowed to select adjacent seats without paying significant fees for ‘premium’ seats, despite my children being 2, 5, and 6 years old (our infant got to sit in our lap). Looking at the seat map it appeared that both flights were completely booked yet the departing flight was only 70% full. We could have easily been allowed to select seats together without being forced to pay for an ‘upgrades’ or waiting until boarding to change seats (we weren’t allowed to pick seats at check in either). We weren’t so fortunate on the return flight (it was oversold) and my wife had to strong arm another passenger into letting her change seats so we didn’t have a stranger sitting next to our children on a redeye. I’ve flown AA many times over the past few years (I live near their hub in Charlotte) and have rarely had a positive experience.


Dear FlyersRights:

I have a flight coming up on Delta (like I had a choice) and booked a seat next to my 4 year old. If they move her away from me, I will be interested to see how that works out for them to have an unaccompanied toddler screaming for her mother the whole flight.

Thanks for staying on top of this.


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