It takes Herculean strength to simply board a flight in this godforsaken town—first, there's getting to the airport, which is nightmarish by car, bus, or train. Then, there are the delays, the cancellations, and the possibility you'll be killed by a loose piece of ceiling, and if you're traveling at any point during or near winter, you're SOL. And now, things are even more fun—the TSA is predicting a hellish summer full of endless security lines, but they promise they'll try to take some time off from stealing your nickels to get things moving smoothly. Seriously, they promise!
The Times reported this week that the TSA's been hit with a bad combination of budget cuts, added security measures, and an increase in air travel, which means folks have been stuck on loooooooooong security lines for flights. It's not just our own beloved airports that have suffered—plane travelers nationwide have reported crowding and lines at security screenings that have lasted hours, and American Airlines says the checkpoint delays have gotten so bad that 6,800 of their passengers missed flights in one week this March.
— kendrabaisinger (@kendrabaisinger) April 22, 2016
Things are going to get worse this summer, when 220 million people are expected to fly in and out of U.S. airports. The T.S.A.’s chief of operations, Gary Rasciot, told the Times that, "This is going to be a rough summer; there is no doubt about it," and that the TSA is "probably not at the staffing level we would like to be to address the volume."
One woman who suffered through long security lines at LaGuardia just last month confirmed to us that a TSA guard told her, "sort of in confidence, that if I'm going to do any traveling this summer the lines are going to be a lot worse." She had a fun time trying to catch her flight, according to this email she sent Gothamist:
So, I get to the airport, fully checked in, small, carry on suitcase in tow, to find a very security long line for my gate C3. Seeing the line, I asked several American Airlines reps about my boarding time (which, at this point wasn't for another 45 minutes). When I finally found an interested rep, I and a small group of customers were escorted to the D gate security checkpoint.
Once there, we were left and instructed to go through the checkpoint (still lines but shorter, although also slow, as two lanes were closed; TSA guards were discussing weekend plans while intermittently assisting customers) and then proceed to gate D2 to catch a shuttle to go back to the original C gates.
Once at D2, we dragged our suitcases and belongings up and down a shortish hall and stairs to find a small shuttle bus with other passengers. After everyone was seated (we were informed that the bus couldn't accommodate standers), the bus was slowly driven to seemingly random sets of D, A, B, then C gates.
When finally off the shuttle, we climbed more stairs and ambled through another small but windy hallway. Several of us landed at our gate to find that the flight was delayed and leaving from yet another nearby gate, C4.
C4 wasn't ready for us, so I sat down nearby to wait. Meanwhile, the gate again changed, now C8, and the flight time moved up. I found this out when two of my comrades walked by to let me know about the new changes.
Every AA rep I queried about all of this appeared to be fairly indifferent to the confusion and delays. Early on, I also asked a police officer if anyone was going to help all of us? His reply, this isn't our problem. Okay, fair enough, I guess. I also queried a couple of TSA officers. One told me that it was all my fault because I didn't arrive at the airport two hours ahead of my flight (despite being checked in, small carry on, guess the one hour before idea has now been revised).
The TSA says all this fun is thanks to widespread security lapses, with contraband like guns and explosives reportedly getting on and off flights on the regular. They have, however, noticed that travelers are not super happy with them, and so they're planning to hire more security officers and adorable bomb-sniffing doggies to make it look like they're not just feeling people up all day.
Other Sweet TSA Survival Life Hacks include getting to the airport three hours before an international flight and two hours before a domestic one; and enrolling in TSA Pre√®, which costs you $85 and some government anonymity but grants you an expedited security screening and lets you keep your shoes on.
Of course, the best way to speed through security is to become a very, very rich person, as recently heralded by one smarmy private jet club executive. "Reports of very long wait lines at TSA checkpoints in airports nationwide has helped our business grow tremendously, as more and more Americans opt to fly private," Sergey Petrossov, CEO of Jetsmarter, jeered in a statement sent out today. "We urge the TSA to keep cutting budgets and staff - its only good for private planes," he added. At least the rest of us poors can take comfort in the fact that our 90-minute security lines have been a noble sacrifice indeed.
"It’s really a good-news story," Rasciot, the TSA's chief of operations, told the Times. "The economy is doing well, Americans are traveling more, and this equates with record numbers at our checkpoints."