Syracuse Airport Officials Help Craft Security Delay Solution for TSA Staff and Checkpoints

May 26, 2016

Growing delays at airports are prompting congressional action on TSA staffing, security checkpoint changes. Syracuse airport officials at hearing Thursday, held by Rep. John Katko
Credit wikipedia.org

  The Director of Syracuse’s Hancock Airport told a congressional panel today her thoughts on helping the growing problem of wait times at Airport Security checkpoints.  Local Congress Member  John Katko is proposing a solution.

Hancock International Airport Executive Director Christina Callahan had to experience a delay before flying down to Washington for the hearing.  Travelers are increasingly missing flights and spending nights in airports due to security delays.  Callahan told the transportation security subcommittee the pre-check system could be part of a solution.

"It really has helped to balance the distribution of pre-check and non-pre-check employees during those peak periods, which for us is really 4:30 until about 7:00 a.m."

Hancock Airport Executive Director Christina Callahan (L) spoke at Transportation Subcommittee hearing in Washington Thursday on reducing security wait times at airports.
Credit https://twitter.com/RepJohnKatko

  One problem in the growing security wait crisis is that many airports don’t have a pre-check line open…many times due to staff shortages.  Subcommittee Chair John Katko of Syracuse is proposing the Checkpoint Optimization and Efficiency Act.  One aspect would untie the hands of TSA directors on staffing.

"I believe that they need to have more flexibility with respect to their decision making authority on the front lines.  If they get a call from American Airlines or Chicago that says, 'look, we're going to get crushed over the next three days, we just sold a bunch of tickets,' they've got to be able to have the flexibility to grant more overtime.  They've got to have the flexibility to bring more people in.  So that's part of what we're contemplating with this bill."  

The measure would also require TSA to work with airports and airlines – particularly at their hubs -  on minimum staffing levels. 

ELEMENTS OF CHECKPOINT OPTIMIZAITON AND EFFICIENCY ACT OF 2016:

  • Grant TSA the flexibility to utilize all personnel present to compensate for long wait lines, including reallocating Behavior Detection Officers to speed up passenger screening efforts and granting greater authority to Federal Security Directors, who know the individual airport best, to make staffing resource decisions.
  • Ensure that private stakeholders, airports, and government regulators are coordinating response through a staffing advisory committee.
  • Require TSA to assess its current staffing allocation model and share this model with both air carriers and airports.
  • Reallocate canine team assets to high volume airports and checkpoints.
  • Require TSA to establish a service level agreement and minimum staffing numbers with air carriers and airports.

Some in congress say privatizing security at airports would help.  Though transportation security officers union officials suggest making more part-time staff full time could fill a lot of gaps.  Katko wants to pass a solution before the vacation travel season sets in.  

Katko supports the passage of a measure to expand the pre-check program, which could have an impact on wait times at airports.  People who pay to sigh up for pre-check - and are approved - are able to go through separated, expedited lines, making other lines faster as well by taking those people out of the normal security lines.