May 18, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal
Late last week, a two-minute video went viral, showing a TSA line that snaked through the entire Chicago Midway airport.
The video, viewed more than 2 million times, highlights the problem that travelers are experiencing ahead of the busy travel months: TSA is understaffed, funding isn’t in place to hire more people and travelers still can’t seem to figure out to take shoes and belts off before they get to the scanner.
But Jacksonville, luckily, is spared some of the problems the nation is facing, said TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz.
“The wait times are not an issue in Jacksonville,” Koshetz told the Business Journal. “Jacksonville has one large checkpoint, which is a very efficient format there. Some have many different checkpoints which require having to spread personnel out. The one checkpoint layout in Jacksonville is very efficient.”
Although Koshetz couldn’t provide employment figures for Jacksonville before publication, national TSA employment is down 12 percent from 47,000 employees in 2013 to 42,000 today. Meanwhile, air travel has increased 15 percent.
To combat this discrepancy, TSA has pledged to hire 6,000 new workers but needs emergency funding to do so. There’s a proposal to shift $34 million from Homeland Security to hire 800 workers for next year, but that doesn’t solve the problem for the busy summer travel season, nor does it solve the shortage long-term.
On top of this, travelers keep forgetting to leave their loaded firearms at home. In May alone, 109 loaded firearms were discovered by TSA.
Koshetz said if travelers want to reduce their wait — in Jacksonville and other airports — they should remember to unpack their bags before repacking, checking for prohibited items, including ammunition.
There’s also the option of signing up for Pre-check, which requires paying a fee and getting checked at a separate location before your trip, and then going through a specialized fast-pass lane. So far, only 2.6 million travelers have signed up for Pre-check, Koshetz said.
But even in an easier airport like Jacksonville, it’s recommended to get there two to three hours before your flight, especially in busier airports.
“Even in Jacksonville, you don’t want to take a chance and arrive at the same time as a busload of cruise passengers,” he said. “You generally expect to spend less time getting through security in Jacksonville, with it being a more compact airport, but it’s still advisable to not take any chances.”