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More travelers are considering road trips for their summer vacations this year, if for no other reason than to avoid airports. TSA has been receiving some serious heat lately for the insanely long security lines at most major U.S. airports. Lines are so long, in fact, that many travelers who arrive to the airport within the suggested two-hour window are still missing their flights.
During a weeklong period in March, American Airlines reports that close to 7,000 passengers missed their flights. A couple weeks ago, almost 500 American passengers missed their flights at Chicago’s O’Hare airport in one day. The situation is getting so out of hand that airports in Phoenix, Atlanta, and New York are discussing replacing TSA with a private security screening company.
The TSA is now telling passengers to arrive at the airport three hours before their scheduled departure time. This seems like a ridiculous request for many flights that are less than three hours long. Amount of air travelers has largely increased recently while the number of employed TSA screeners has greatly decreased–leading to slower moving security lines.
See one traveler’s horrific experience at Chicago Midway:
There is hope on the horizon, though. Homeland Security recently announced it will hire 768 new officers and approve more overtime compensation for the 42,500 current employees in major U.S. airports. While this will help the problem, it isn’t going to fix it right now. Hiring new employees, especially that many new employees, will take months and Memorial Day Weekend just marked the start of peak travel season.
While sharing your awful airport experience on social media with #iHateTheWait may relieve immediate frustration, travelers do have some legitimate options to help avoid arriving to the airport some insane amount of time before their flight.
TSA PreCheck or Global Entry may help, as long as there are enough TSA employees working to monitor these separate lines. Not only are these lines a lot shorter, but passengers can leave shoes and outer layers on and laptops and liquids inside their carry-on.
Certain airlines such as JetBlue, United and Delta have the option of purchasing priority boarding that allows passengers to go through expedited security lines. This is an extra cost, though, and not available at all airports.
For those traveling this summer, try to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday at midday in order to avoid long security lines–these are the slowest times at an airport. Consider flying to/from a smaller airport nearby the major one. For example, fly in or out of Providence or Manchester instead of Boston. Flying can always be unpredictable, but choosing a less busy airport and travel day can save you valuable time until this issue is sorted out.
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Ashley Rossi, SmarterTravel.com | June 1, 2016