The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 04/29/08
The Atlanta office of the Transportation Security Administration has come under increasing pressure recently to help reduce security lines at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
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Inadequate TSA staffing at security gates has been pointed to by airport officials and federal representatives as one cause of lingering delays at the airport's main 22-gate security checkpoint, which is located near Hartsfield-Jackson's atrium.
Airport officials met with TSA representatives Monday on the issue, and TSA administrator Kip Hawley plans to come to Atlanta later this month to discuss solutions. The city of Atlanta runs the airport, but TSA is responsible for the airport's security gates.
Long security wait times have increasingly caught the attention of Georgia's congressional delegation, which last week mailed a letter to Hawley, questioning whether the airport's security lanes are ready for the summer rush, which begins June 1. Hartsfield-Jackson is the busiest airport in the world, with 86 million people using the massive facility every year.
Airport officials want security waits to be no more than 15-20 minutes. They often are in that range, but can vary wildly, sometimes running to an hour or more. Monday mornings — jammed with business travelers — holidays and the so-called 100 days of summer (June-August) can be especially prone to long waits.
"We remain concerned that TSA's management at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is not sufficiently staffing the security checkpoint, and is not prepared to meet passenger demand during the upcoming busy summer travel season," the congressional delegation wrote in a letter addressed to Hawley. The letter requests a meeting with Hawley and Hartsfield-Jackson General Manager Ben DeCosta to discuss checkpoint staffing in light of 10 new security lanes DeCosta plans to build at the airport by mid-summer.
The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss and U.S. Reps. John Lewis, Sanford Bishop, Jack Kingston and David Scott.
Hawley wrote to DeCosta April 10 that TSA will "strive to fully staff all lanes during peak hours," with the goal of limiting wait times "to less than 20 minutes." He also agreed to provide additional staffing for the new security lanes at the airport. Hawley has pledged to move Atlanta up on the list of airports scheduled to get new X-ray equipment, which should be available by year's end.