By Mike Wilcox, Publisher
Earlier this week I woke up to the news that the man in charge of the TSA had been fired. This came, of course after he collected a yearly salary pushing $180,000 and a bonus of over $60,000.
Long security lines at airports have been a problem for quite some time. The firing was fueled by over 100 passengers who had their travel plans run amuck at Chicago O’Hare, when they were stuck in security lines when their flights took off. This was not 100 passengers over the span of a month or a week. No this was 100 passengers who missed flights in one day.
I consider myself a frequent flyer, and an impatient one to boot, traveling by air from Atlanta to Detroit and back at least once a month, as well as to other locations. To be honest I have found security lines to be terribly frustrating, but as of late there has been an effort to improve wait time, particularly in Detroit.
Where once it seemed like the wait was forever, I now am able to zip through the Detroit line within fifteen minutes. That is because TSA has beefed up the number of agents working the lines, and instead of one line being open, they now have at least two. Agents who were once grumpy and didn’t give it a hoot about their job performance, and now nice and friendly and realize the need to push the line along as quick as possible.
In Atlanta, which flies more passengers than any other airport in the world, one can see a major effort focused on reducing the security line wait. That focus is the result of a lot of local bad press, and managerial firings at Hartsfield-Jackson. The focus, however, needs to be stepped up, because long lines continue to heighten the anxiety of many passengers.
Atlanta reminds me of waiting in line for a popular ride at Disney World. Like a snake curled up two dozen times, the Atlanta security lines weave back and forth as you check your cellphone and watch, hoping you won’t miss your plane.
Last week, however, I noticed TSA workers were much like their Detroit counterparts, encouraging passengers to move quickly and offering friendly advice whenever possible. A nice touch was a female violinist playing contemporary music as you entered the security line. I fully expect next month to see a vendor serving hot dogs to those waiting in line.
Short of opening more security stations, I’m not sure Atlanta can do much more. I personally give myself 45 minutes to get through their security line. I will say that was shortened for my last trip to about a little less than a half hour. I was pleased.
Although my experience is a small sampling, it’s kind of ironic that TSA’s top dog gets his walking papers when real progress is being made, at least in Detroit and Atlanta. If his dismissal took place a year ago, when he received his huge bonus, I could totally understand. Then security lines were ridiculous and TSA agents made you feel like a criminal as they barked orders at you.
I can remember flying to St. Thomas about 9 months ago. Getting in was great, but returning to the States was a nightmare. The security line was all the way out the building and then a good 100 yards inside. The wait was not a half hour, nor was it an hour. No, flying out of the U.S. Virgin Islands was a two-hour security line wait.
Hopefully the TSA takes a look at that situation, along with O’Hare and other airports that provide the security line challenge. As passengers we pay enough for airfare. We don’t need to be missing flights or having to wait in Disney-like lines.