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HURRY UP AND WAIT

The US’s infuriating airport security problem, in one chart

David Yanofsky
By David Yanofsky

Editor of code, visuals, and data

The limits of America’s aviation security apparatus are quickly being exposed as the country’s peak travel season begins. Lines at Transportation Safety Administration checkpoints have been reported to take hours, while in prior years it took mere minutes to pass through security.

The reasons for the seemingly endless lines in US airports are varied:

  • The number of passenger and baggage screeners has been cut year after year, while air travel has grown
  • To avoid paying fees, more travelers are bringing hand luggage through checkpoints instead of checking bags
  • Following the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels, checkpoint employees have been instructed to be more thorough in security examinations

Earlier this month, Congress approved the TSA’s proposal to hire 768 additional screeners and pay more overtime to existing workers. However, those hires will not make up for the cuts to budgeted staffing from last year.

The American Federation of Government Employees, the union representing TSA workers, has proposed that the agency hire 6,000 additional screeners, which would to bring staffing back to 2011 levels.

In the meantime, Jeh Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security, said last week that travelers need to come to the airport with “appropriate expectations” for screening.

Correction: An earlier version of this article referred to American Federation of Government Employees as American Federation of Government Workers.

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