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5 Tips for Dealing With the Airport Staffing Shortage

Air travel is rebounding, but airports aren’t ready for it—so if you’re planning on flying any time soon, prepare for long waits at security and at airport shops/restaurants. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) admitted in a memo obtained by The Washington Post that they are short at least 2,500 officers, with some airports being down more than 100 agents. This has resulted in record wait times at security checkpoints around the country, resulting in missed flights for some.

The TSA isn’t the only one struggling to attract employees—airport restaurants and shops are having trouble hiring enough staff to meet demand, which is resulting in closed amenities or long lines. 

Here are five ways to prepare for understaffed airports: 

Arrive Early

Give yourself extra time before your flight. Airport security lines will likely be longer, and even checking in could take more time than normal as passengers must show negative COVID-19 tests for many destinations. Leave more of a buffer than you normally would for a flight in order to avoid stress or potentially missing your flight.

Get a TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or Clear Membership

If you aren’t already a member, now might be a great time to invest in a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership, both of which will give you access to shorter security lines and expedited screenings. Even if you have a membership, you’ll still want to pay attention to the first tip and arrive early, as the TSA may shut down certain checkpoints if they don’t have enough staff, which could mean there won’t be a dedicated TSA PreCheck line at your airport. 

A CLEAR membership could be another option if you really don’t want to wait in line—this “cut the security line” service is run by a private company (not the TSA) and wouldn’t be subjected to the same staffing shortages as PreCheck or Global Entry.

Bring Your Own Supplies

Many airport concessionaires laid-off workers at the start of the pandemic, and now are struggling to attract staff to come back. With retail booming everywhere, it’s hard to find employees willing to commute out to an airport and go through airport security every day.

This worker shortage means that many airport bars, restaurants, and shops will be short-staffed, and flyers may face long waits. So if you won’t have much time at the airport between connections, be sure to pack your own food rather than risk going hungry due to long lines. 

Download the MyTSA app

Although there isn’t an app that accurately shows real-time waits at airport security, the MyTSA app does a pretty good job at predicting how long the lines are likely to be. The app uses historical data to show how busy the airport is estimated to be on a specific day and time. 

You can also use the app to quickly search and see which items are allowed on a plane, flight delay information, and weather conditions at the airport.

Familiarize Yourself With the Rules

It may have been a while since you’ve been on a plane, so take a minute and make sure you’re still familiar with the security process. There are new rules around face masks, hand sanitizer, and Real IDs, so give the TSA’s guidelines a read before you head to the airport. This will help speed up the line and get you (and everyone else) through security more quickly. 

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