Delta Air Lines, Inc. plans to add its own staff and contractors at TSA security checkpoints at peak hours in an effort to minimize back-ups and delays that are happening all over the country as a result of decreased TSA staffing and an increase in the volume of travelers.
The cost of the additional staff adds up to nearly $4 million, but that’s not where the Atlanta-based airport is drawing the line.
Delta is consulting with industrial engineering experts on how to redesign security checkpoints for better passenger flow. The airline has already invested $1 million in redesigning two lanes at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The design depends on passengers doing things in parallel rather than one at a time so that one person’s slow habits or a bag that sounds the alarm doesn’t hold up other passengers.
“It’s the first of its kind in the U.S., and day one it increased productivity 30 percent,” said Delta Air Lines Chief Operating Officer Gil West after running a test of the new design. “The biggest constraint of the system is the X-ray screening of the bags.”
West told CNBC’s “Power Lunch” on Wednesday that although bag screening is the biggest hold-up, baggage fees are not the reason behind the recent delays. Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey and Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal recently asked executives at 12 airlines to drop checked-bag fees this summer to help reduce the wait.
About 231 million passengers will fly on U.S. airlines from June through August, up 4 percent from the same period last year.
Today at a Transportation Security hearing, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) National President J. David Cox Sr. urged the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee to enact emergency legislation to enable the TSA to hire the 6,000 additional full-time officers it needs to end the delays.
“The current crisis was both foreseeable and preventable,” Cox said, pointing out that TSA has been chronically underfunded for years.
Cox said the four main factors at fault for the delays were decline in the size of the TSO workforce; diversion of the security fees by Congress to other projects; emphasis on outsourcing duties to non-federal personnel as a temporary “fix” to staffing issues; and poor treatment of the TSA workforce.
In 2014, TSA only hired 373 TSOs to replace the 4,644 who left the agency.