Delays and queues at US airports are blowing out to such an extent that airlines are being pressed to speed things up by suspending collection of baggage fees. Astonishing videos are being made of enormous queues.
A viral video posted on YouTube shows the unbelievable length of a TSA security queue at Chicago’s Midway International Airport. Views of the video had topped 2 million three days after it was posted. Warning: there are a couple of expletives, expressing frustration, at the end.
News that 3000 checked bags missed their outbound flights at another US airport on Thursday did not exactly lift passenger morale.
Sky Harbor International Airport at Phoenix blamed a glitch with a security screening system for the bags not making the flights, leaving a lot of travellers fuming at their destinations without their luggage.
Two US senators have urged airlines to temporarily halt charging passengers baggage fees in an bid to speed up security queues.
The union representing Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at US airports has called on Congress to pass emergency legislation to hire 6000 more full-time screeners to help fix the problem.
Airlines have told customers to arrive at the airport two hours early for domestic flights – and even that isn’t long enough in many cases.
Part of the problem is the custom of US carriers to charge ancillary fees for every conceivable service – including baggage check-in. Passengers often bring extra items through security screening to save money.
Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey want major US airlines to suspend the fees during the busy northern summer season. The senators have warned that travel officials fear “a meltdown this summer as travel increases”.
American Airlines recently complained that more than 6000 of its passengers had missed flights in one week because of security delays at TSA checkpoints.
US federal budget cuts have slashed the number of TSA screeners. The TSA currently has about 42,000 officers on the job, down from 47,000 in 2013. At the same time, the volume of passengers has risen 15%, from 643 million to 740 million.
The union representing the screeners, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) insists that 6000 more officers are needed immediately.
Meanwhile, TSA workers in Phoenix struggled last week to clear the mountain of over 3000 checked bags that missed their outbound flights on Thursday.
“TSA is experiencing significant, unprecedented technical issues with its computer server allowing the automated screening of checked bags for explosives,” TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said.
Written by Peter Needham