Accessibility links

Flying This Summer Means Longer Security Lines

Thousands of travelers have missed their flights due to long security lines.

The lines are likely to get worse at U.S. airports with 231 million travelers expected to fly this summer.

This weekend, also known as Memorial Day weekend, is the start of the summer travel season in the U.S. Americans will fly to visit families or go on vacations.

On Thursday, Kerry Philipovitch of American Airlines told U.S. Congress that 70,000 American customers missed their flights the last 12 months due to long security lines.

“We have never seen TSA wait times that affect airlines and passengers throughout the United States like we’ve seen in recent months,” Philipovitch said.

Peter Neffenger is the head of the U.S. Transportation Security Agency, or TSA. He said, “We cannot and will not compromise on the security of the traveling public.”

Neffenger told Congress that he will not reduce security checks to reduce waits. But he is hiring more officers and moving bomb-detection dogs to large U.S. airports.

Neffenger also removed TSA’s security head and put in new leadership at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. On several days, there were reports of security waits of two to three hours in Chicago.

How do travelers deal with delay?

The TSA offers tips for summer travel, including arriving at airports up to two hours before domestic flights and up to three hours before international flights.

At Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Wednesday, some passengers arriving or flying out of the airport were surprised their waits were not longer.

“I was worried about it, but the lines moved quickly today,” said Kellie Artis of Alexandria, Virginia.

“I guess I’ve been lucky,” said Odd Steinar Haugen of Norway. Haugen said he waited only 20 minutes to clear security in Phoenix, Arizona, for his Wednesday flight to Washington.

Passengers have strong opinions on how to keep waits short.

John Rafferty of North Dallas, Texas, said a big problem is that “more passengers are carrying luggage or bags onto airplanes instead of checking them."

It takes longer, he told VOA to complete checks of people carrying luggage filled with “everything but the kitchen sink.” By “everything but the kitchen sink,” Rafferty means people who bring lots of things, including things they do not need.

Rafferty said one fix would be separate lines for people who paid $25 or more per bag to check their bags with the airline.

“Let the people who brought along all these bags wait, not those of us who paid $50 to check our bags,” he said.

Some members of Congress have called on airlines to drop their checked baggage charges -- at least for the summer travel season.

“Without charges for checking their bags, passengers will be far less likely to carry them on,” which “slows the inspection process,” said Senators Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut in a letter.

But some passengers at Washington’s Reagan Airport said people avoid checking bags so they won’t have to wait for checked bags to arrive at baggage claim.

“I think people would continue to carry bags on planes, even if there was no charge,” said one passenger, carrying two bags off a flight from Albany, New York.

And U.S. airlines, which made $3.8 billion in baggage fees during 2015, do not want to give up that money.

More People Flying

Airlines for America expects 231 million people to fly this summer in the United States, up from 200 million in 2009. The group represents U.S. airlines and warns of long lines this summer unless more security officers are hired.

Paul Hudson is president of, which represents airline passengers. He said the major reasons for long security lines are: the continued threat of terrorism, along with fewer airport security officers and 97 million more people flying in 2016 than three years ago.

Shortages of TSA workers is partly due to “low morale,” he said.

Pauline Frommer is editorial director of Frommer Media, which publishes travel guides. She said it is understandable so many TSA officers quit.

“It’s such an awful job. You are underpaid, people hate you, and if you make a mistake, the consequences are huge,” she said.

Some passengers are sharing their frustrations on Twitter under hashtag #hatethewait. Among them this passenger flying from a New York/New Jersey airport to Paris:

“@AirlineReporter @TSA 90 minutes in line @NY_NJairports. Nearly missed my flight to Paris. #iHateTheWait”

But some are more understanding.

“Would you rather wait shorter times in @TSA than the possibility of a BOMB being smuggled onto your plane? #iHateTheWait Stop whining! #9/11,” tweeted one passenger.

I'm Bruce Alpert.

Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and share your views on our Facebook Page.


Words in This Story

bomb-detection dogs -- n. dogs trained to detect bombs

checkv. to give your bags or suitcases to a worker so that they can be loaded onto a plane or train

luggage or bags n. the bags and suitcases that a person carries when traveling

editorial director n. the person who heads the department where books and other publications are written

awfuladj. extremely bad or unpleasant

consequencen. something that happens as a result of a particular action or set of conditions

postn. to put out written statement

whinev. to complain in an annoying way

Show comments