"I always tell people I won't apologize for doing our job well, but I do apologize to the people who found themselves stranded in Chicago yesterday"
- TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger
Two days ago we showed a video that promptly became viral of what was a line at Midway Airport that, somewhat hyperbolically, stretched for miles.
As the WaPo reported, when Sean Hoffman arrived at Midway Airport last week for his flight home to Oregon, he said he was taken aback by the comically long line to get through security. "I got to the end, (and) I was like, holy (expletive), people would probably like to see this."
It wasn't just Midway: the carnage continuesd at Chicago's O'Hare, where as CBS reported, with increasingly long lines to get through security at the city’s airports, many travelers have been missing their flights, and some ended up sleeping at O’Hare International Airport on Sunday. To "help" furious travelers, American Airlines put out cots for fewer than 100 travelers who missed their flights Sunday night due to the long lines at TSA security checkpoints. Adrian Petra said he missed his flight after standing in line for 2 hours and 20 minutes. American Airlines said some 4,000 passengers have missed flights at O’Hare since February because of the long wait times.
The TSA has been urging passengers to get to the airport at least two hours early for domestic flights, and three hours early for international flights. However, some passengers have said that is not enough time to get through security and still make their flight.
One alleged reason behind these lines was that Homeland Security wanted to force more travelers to become “known” to the government via PreCheck programs. Another reason was the TSA's revolt at the government cutting its funding. According to AP, "in the past three years, the TSA and Congress cut the number of front-line screeners by 4,622 — or about 10 percent — on expectations that an expedited screening program called PreCheck would speed up the lines. However, not enough people enrolled for TSA to realize the anticipated efficiencies."
In other words, PreCheck has been in a failure. Not enough Americans have been willing to make themselves “known” to FedGov and Homeland Security, and now the epic inefficiency of the TSA - and the government - has been fully exposed.
Meanwhile, the nightmare lines continue, perhaps nowhere more so than at America's already busiest airport, Chicago's O'Hare.
As NBC writes, the Transportation Security Administration is flooding Chicago's O'Hare International Airport with more staff and resources after hundreds of passengers were stranded as their planes took off while they waited in line, local and federal authorities said Tuesday.
TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger apologized at a travel conference Tuesday in Houston to the more than 450 passengers who didn't make it onto their flights overnight Sunday and Monday as the security screening lines crept along at O'Hare.
"We had a significant challenge in Chicago yesterday," Neffenger said. "I don't know what that was, but fixing that, that is of great concern to me. I always tell people I won't apologize for doing our job well, but I do apologize to the people who found themselves stranded in Chicago yesterday," Neffenger said.
Neffenger and his boss, Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, promised Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday that more than 300 extra TSA officers will be assigned to Chicago's airports by mid-August — 58 of them within the next three weeks.
Even Rahm chimed in: "The TSA wait times at Chicago's airports have been unacceptable," Emanuel said. "There is no excuse for passengers to wait in line for hours." Well, there is. It's called "the government."
Other measures that Emanuel said the feds promised include the tripling of authorized overtime, the addition of at least five more canine teams and the diversion of operational experts to Chicago from airports around the country.
But that wasn't good enough for Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois. "The flying public is experiencing a high security risk and economic burden from unnecessary wait times and missed flights due to insufficient staffing at TSA," Kirk said in a statement Tuesday.
"If travelers do not have relief by Memorial Day, TSA Administrator Neffenger must resign and be replaced with a leader who can provide fast and secure screening."
The TSA confirmed the reallocations to NBC News on Tuesday evening. They're among the first new measures among a long list of fixes that Johnson, the Homeland Security secretary, outlined at a news briefing — including the hiring of more than 750 new screening officers across the country.
Among the measures likely to be most controversial, the TSA will also strongly encourage airlines to find ways to reduce the size and number of carry-ons, the screening of which Johnson said "has a lot to do with the wait time."
In other words, put all the onus on the passengers, not those staffed with fixing the problem.
Even the White House weighed in, as press secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged that Chicago screeners face a "significant challenge." "They don't want to inconvenience people," Earnest said at the daily White House news briefing. But aviation officials "want to make sure [people] they can engage in travel safety."
Meanwhile, as the fingerpointing continues and accusations fly, expect many more images such as this one and thousands of furious travellers stuck in lines for hours and hours.