Airlines enlist travelers in effort to cut security lines

Monday, May 9, 2016
Passengers are reflected in glass as they line up at a checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta.
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- U.S. airlines have pressed the government to act to reduce the long security lines at the nation's airports.

Now, they're even asking passengers for help by sharing their frustration on social media.

Lines during peak hours at some airports have topped 90 minutes. The airlines are warning customers to arrive at the airport two hours in advance and are fearful the situation will worsen with a record number of travelers expected this summer.

Earlier last week, the Transportation Security Administration said it would increase staffing at security checkpoints and boost the number of bomb-sniffing dogs to help the lines move more quickly. The agency also is asking Congress for more money to hire more screeners and pay existing ones overtime.

Both sides have encouraged travelers to enroll in the TSA's expedited screening program called PreCheck. But the airlines want travelers to do something that comes more naturally: complain.

Airlines for America, the industry's trade group, just launched a website called iHateTheWait.com, encouraging fliers to post photos of the lines on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #iHateTheWait. Presumably this will make Congress more aware of the problem -- and let fellow travelers know what they're in for when they arrive.

The group's spokeswoman Jean Medina, said the campaign is "raising awareness of the issue and serving as crowd-sourced (wait- time) information."

While the number of travelers is on the rise, there are fewer agents to screen them. The number of front-line screeners was cut by 10 percent in the past three years, based on the assumption travelers would enroll in PreCheck.

They did not.

The airline trade group, which represents Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, said on the iHateTheWait website engaging in the social-media campaign will "help cut wait times for everyone who flies."

TSA spokesman Michael England would not comment about the site.

But he said the TSA's goal is to keep all passengers safe and suggests passengers arrive at the airport two hours early for domestic flights.

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