TSA Chief Peter Neffenger could have told the Today Show that the appalling wait times for airport security lines would eventually get shorter. He could have pointed out that it was wrong to pay government employees charged with protecting the public less than a living wage, that it was wrong for airlines to keep commanding exorbitant checked baggage fees and exacerbating the problem while reaping record profits. Instead, Peter Neffenger fumbled for answers like a guy trying to take off his shoes and belt at the same time, the weight of his evasive answers bearing down on him like an undeclared 12-ounce bottle of contact solution in a carry-on item.
Neffenger admitted that the TSA “had to get better at our mission” after an internal audit conducted before his appointment showed that contraband flowed past TSA screeners 95% of the time and that personnel were punished for pointing out lapses.
“We weren’t paying close enough attention,” he said.
“The average TSA worker makes about $30,000 a year,” Matt Lauer pointed out. Their salaries were slashed not too long ago. Shouldn’t they earn more money if we want a service that’s more than just security theater?
“I’d like to see pay and benefits reform across the whole system.”
What about Homeland Security’s recent request to the airlines that they temporarily waive their checked baggage fees? Low oil prices and monopolization have allowed them to earn $22 billion in profits in 2015 alone. Couldn’t they stand to let those pecuniary benefits trickle down to their customers this one time? Just once? Especially considering that you'll soon have to pay to sit next to your family?
“They’ve done a tremendous amount to help us in recent weeks, hiring contract staff to handle non-security related duties, things like running the bins back and forth, and helping people remember to take the right things off as they move across the checkpoint lines,” Neffenger replies.
Lauer stops him: “But if they dropped those fees, would lines get shorter?”
Neffenger responds with a suggestion that the airlines become even more draconian about their “1+1 rule,” which allows one carry on bag and one “personal item.”
“What I’m focused on is getting people moving efficiently through. I think if they could help us enforce the one plus one rule, that’s very important because if you can reduce pressure at the checkpoints that makes a big difference—"
Matt Fucking Lauer, journalist, interrupts again, Ed Murrow’s lit cigarette glowing in his eyes. He has been awake for hours, ready for this.
“But with all due respect, if they dropped those fees, would the lines get shorter?”
“You know, I don’t know that there’s a direct correlation between that, but I do know that there’s a direct correlation between people carrying prohibited items through the checkpoint and slowing down the checkpoint.”
And the cock crowed a third time.
Savannah Guthrie, sounding resigned, finally asked Neffenger to “give it to us straight: should [the public] expect these long lines to continue? Should they for this summer, come two to three hours early?”
Neffenger, straight as the cost of 30 minutes on the Boingo La Guardia Wireless Network, did his best.
“You know, we’re gonna see record travel this summer again,” Neffenger said, pointing out that 100 million more people were expected to fly this summer compared to 2013. "It's really the top 20 airports where you see the biggest challenge. And we're putting a lot of resources into those airports."
Yes, the airports that get the most use tend to be the ones with the most people in them, that is true.
“I hope you’ll see long lines but you’ll move efficiently through the system.”