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Will Airport Security Lines Ever Go Faster?

Maybe you’ve noticed, maybe you haven’t, but the airport security lines at our nation’s TSA checkpoints have been growing even longer of late, and now one airline is finally fed up enough to do something about it.

American announced this week it will hire contractors to “perform tasks such as managing lines and collecting bins so that TSA officers can focus on screening passengers.” In total, American expects to spend $4 million assisting the TSA to manage airport security lines.

American COO Robert Isom said in a letter to employees that long lines have resulted in missed flights and delayed bags for tens of thousands of customers. He said his airline’s measure was a good start, but that the TSA must address the underlying staffing shortage causing the problems to begin with. Fortunately, Congress recently approved $34 million in funding, enough to hire 768 new screeners and pay overtime to existing employees.

So, help appears to be on the way. But not before the TSA kinda sorta blamed passengers for the problem.

Why Are Airport Security Lines So Long?

“We are not here today to blame passengers,” Mark Howell, TSA Regional Spokesperson, said at a recent press conference (before going on to blame passengers). “But it is one contributing factor to long lines at the airports.” He said passengers bringing prohibited items such as knives and bottles of water slow down the check-in process.

“When we are able to process passengers quickly through the line when they don’t have those bottles of water, pocket knives and other prohibited items, they went through in about a minute and 50 seconds for 10 passengers,” Howell explained.

He has a point. The TSA’s carry-on prohibitions have been more or less unchanged for over a decade now, so passengers should be well-acquainted with the routine. But the rules themselves are arguably excessive to the point of being silly, and uneven enforcement leads passengers to think they can bend those rules. I’ve lost count of the number of liquids I’ve gotten through TSA, to the point that I don’t always realize when I have one in my bag. I guess that makes me part of the problem, but it’s a shaky argument to blame passengers for breaking rules your agency doesn’t seem to take very seriously.

Readers, what do you think? Have you noticed longer lines? Do you follow the 3-1-1 rule to a T or do you try to beat it (or simply ignore it)?

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