(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) said Thursday at a House Oversight Committee hearing on misconduct within the Transportation Security Administration that almost 7,000 American Airlines passengers missed their flights in March alone because of delays at TSA checkpoints.
“I think there is a growing concern as a management challenge what’s happening in terms of wait times. So for example, 600 passengers missed their flights in Charlotte, N.C. on Good Friday, because of wait times that exceeded three hours. Now Ms. (Carolyn) Maloney said she doesn’t know anyone who complains. My guess is there were 600 people that day on Good Friday who did,” Connolly said.
“It’s one thing to understand I’m going to be discommoded and inconvenienced to get through a security line to protect me and everybody else. It’s quite another … the price of that is it’s moving so sluggishly and glacially I’m going to miss my flight,” he said. “American Airlines says 7,000 of its customers missed flights in March alone.
“Seattle and Atlanta have indicated they actually may seek authorities to try to privatize passenger screening to expedite this process. Could you address that, because I think we have to agree that’s not acceptable? Now we’re going to get real public resistance,” Connolly told TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger.
NBC News reported in April that almost 6,800 American Airlines passengers missed flights during the week of March 14-20 because of checkpoint delays – the worst of which occurred in Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas and Philadelphia.
“The lines at TSA checkpoints nationwide have become unacceptable," NBC News quoted American spokesman Ross Feinstein as saying in a statement. “The result: our customers are waiting in TSA lines greater than one hour."
Neffenger said the TSA has seen “huge increases in passenger volume,” but the agency has recently accelerated hiring.
“We’ve seen huge increases in passenger volume. There’s no doubt about that, and at peak times, we’re seeing more people moving through the system than we’ve ever seen before,” Neffenger said.
“Just to put it in perspective, four years ago, a big day in this country was about 1.6 million passengers going through screening checkpoints,” he said. “We’re well above 2 million passengers daily rate now, so that’s just a volume increase, and I do think we need to grow the staff slightly to get up to that, and we’re working hard on that.
“In fact, we’ve been, once we got our appropriations bill passed in September, we began accelerated hiring, because as you know, if you’re going to reduce by another 1600 or so people, we cut into that number well in advance of the fiscal year, so we’re hiring, and we’re meeting our hiring quotas. I think the good news is we have people who actually want to come to work for TSA,” Neffenger said.
Connolly said the TSA should “set some metrics” on wait times, because “three hours is unacceptable.” He said the agency should set a time frame that is acceptable, make sure not to go beyond that, and provide whatever staffing is necessary.
“I mean Mr. Mica correctly talked about staffing to traffic. This is part of that,” Connolly added.
“That’s right, and we’ve been working very closely with the airlines, the airports to understand when those peak loads are coming through, and to make sure our staffing meets that. I think we’ve improved significantly just in the past few weeks. I’m not aware of any wait times of the length that you’re talking about right now, and I track them daily, and I look at passenger volume daily, and I look at across all of the airports,” said Neffenger.
“You may want to check Good Friday in Charlotte, according to this report,” Connolly said.