Long waits and vocal travelers have prompted associations and Homeland Security to push for more staff and more overtime.
As the busy summer travel season approaches, airport and travel associations supported the Transportation Security Administration in its recent successful plea to Congress for more funds and staff to reduce wait times in security lines.
Last week, TSA representatives went before Congress to request a shift in budget allocations to hire more than 750 new officers and pay overtime to its current force of 42,500 officers. Without the additional staff funding, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told Congress, travelers can anticipate longer waits at checkpoints, which have already been exasperating travelers and airlines alike recently. As Associations Now reported earlier this week, a group representing U.S. airlines has launched an initiative encouraging flyers to voice their concerns.
The “mere perception of security hassles” could impact summer travel, the USTA says.
The U.S. Travel Association lent its support to TSA’s efforts, expressing concern that even the “mere perception of security hassles” could affect Americans’ travel plans. “The U.S. travel community is grateful that the well-documented problems with TSA security lane resourcing have the full attention of the Obama administration and Congress,” USTA president Roger Dow said in a statement.
TSA also has the support of two airport associations, Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) and the American Association of Airport Executives. In a joint letter sent to TSA Administrator Peter V. Neffenger last month, the associations’ leaders listed a number of proposals to streamline the screening process, including giving TSA staff at particular airports more authority “to make local decisions about manpower resource allocation, including overtime, without having to consult with TSA headquarters.”
Last week, the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee approved TSA’s request to transfer $34 million in its budget to make the funds available for hiring, training, and overtime. The House signed off on the request Wednesday, but not before Rep. John Carter (R-TX), who chairs the House Homeland Security Subcommittee, criticized TSA for not better anticipating the summer travel crush.
“Common sense and historical trends tell us air travel will increase during the summer months and when the economy improves, and TSA has simply failed to plan responsibly,” Carter said in a statement.
ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke praised the Senate subcommittee’s approval but encouraged legislators and TSA alike to think even further ahead when it comes to reducing headaches in security lines, including raising the cap on the passenger facility charge to fund further improvements.
“Congress can do its part to reduce long security lines by providing TSA with adequate resources and modernizing the local Passenger Facility Charge user fee to fund needed infrastructure projects that will bolster security and improve passenger flows in aging airport terminals,” Burke said in a statement.