The Travel Detective

Travel Detective Blog: The Continuing TSA Delay Saga

airport2Here’s an update to my story on excessively long waits, delays, staff shortages, and mismanagement by the TSA—and my own ordeal at LAX last week.

Shortly after my story appeared, the TSA responded to say that my reporting was incorrect; that they had gone back and timed how long I was standing in line, and that it was only 34 minutes, not an hour and ten minutes as I had claimed.

Really? Let’s look at the numbers. When I first landed in the TSA line, I stood—not moving—for 20 minutes. Then, out of frustration, I asked one of the airport officers (from a private firm hired to control the security lines) if there was a faster line.

At Tom Bradley terminal at LAX, there is no PreCheck—no one gets expedited treatment at security lines because every flight is an international departure. The agent told me there was a business class line on the other side of the terminal. So I headed over there. Then, it went from bad to worse and I stood on line for 34 more minutes. But it wasn’t over yet.

My bag got selected for additional screening, but the problem was compounded because there were no TSA agents available to inspect it for 14 minutes. During that time, I approached two different TSA supervisors and asked for help. I got none.

When they DID inspect the bag, the officer discovered the machine was broken and he had to go to another station with a working machine. We had to wait two minutes while another inspection was completed. Then the officer took everything out of the bag, returned all the items to the conveyor belt, and ran them again. So I had to repack everything.

Now for some math: 20 minutes in the first line, 34 minutes in the second line, 14 minutes to inspect the bag; 6 minutes to run everything through, and another 2 minutes for me to quickly repack everything and run to the gate. That works out to 70 minutes, or roughly 1 hour and 10 minutes.

I exited the security checkpoint at 11:28 p.m. for a flight that was scheduled to leave at 11:50 p.m., and they had already announced final boarding twice before I arrived at the gate.

What I find particularly interesting is how fast the TSA moved to “respond” to my story, and how quickly it claimed it had counted my time in line and disputed my figures.

But the ultimate irony: The TSA actually employs someone to respond to stories like mine and “time” the individual complainant, but it has done very little to ease the real problem of line delays.

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