PHOTO: The TSA has promised JFK and LaGuardia airports an additional 72 seasonal officers for the upcoming travel period. File Photo
By Michael V. Cusenza
Less than a week after a New York senator very publically ripped the Transportation Security Administration for what he called “outrageously long” security lines at area airports, the agency has promised that dozens of additional officers will be dispatched to John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) last week called for an immediate surge in canine teams and more agents deployed to city airports “as soon as possible.”
“As New York City airport wait times bog down, so waits the nation,” Schumer said. “New York City is a national hub and if we can reduce the wait times here, we can make the entire country move a lot faster.”
It seems that the Department of Homeland Security heard his pleas for help. According to Schumer, TSA is set to hire more than 750 additional officers to help alleviate wait times this summer traveling season. JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Airports have each been allocated an additional 72 officers, for a total of 216 TSA officers in the New York-metro area.
“These new agents are desperately needed to speed-up brutally long security lines now plaguing our airports. We need them on duty ASAP – especially at JFK and LaGuardia – to ward off the ‘flypocalypse’ that will ensue when the busy summer travel season begins,” Schumer said. “That’s why I am pleased that the TSA has agreed to deploy over 200 new agents to New York City-area airports to unclog the lines and improve security—something that benefits travelers all across the United States.”
According to the Port Authority, 126 million air travelers utilize its airports each year. This summer traveling season is expected to be one of the busiest. More than 220 million passengers are expected to fly this summer season, according to published reports, which Schumer says could greatly impact wait times at local New York City-area airports like JFK and LaGuardia—even the nation.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark, recently pointed to an increase in security line wait times for air travelers, Schumer noted. In a May 4 letter to TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger, Port Authority Aviation Director Thomas Bosco and Chief Security Officer Thomas Belfiore wrote that during the period of March 15 through April 15 of this year, there were 253 occurrences of 20-plus minute waits – compared to 10 instances over the same five weeks in 2015. The letter says that JFK’s daily average of maximum wait times during the same period increased 82 percent to 20.9 minutes in 2016 from 11.5 minutes last year. The letter also states that the absolute maximum in 2016 was 55 minutes vs. 30 minutes in 2015. The agency has said that the issue is similar at LaGuardia and Newark.
Also this week, Homeland Security removed Kelly Hoggan, TSA’s head of security, from his position.
“We’ve got to ensure aviation security and the safety of the American travel public,” said DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson. “I’ve made it clear to TSA that we should not shortcut that.”
Hoggan was at the helm last summer when an internal Homeland Security investigation resulted in a scathing report detailing major and consistent lapses in security at dozens of airports across the country. Undercover DHS “Red Team” investigators were able to smuggle banned items and fake bombs through TSA screening checkpoints in nearly 96 percent of their trial runs.