Long security lines are irking travelers at Newark Liberty Airport. And while the TSA contends that the lengthy lines have been caused by an increase in travelers and new security measures, some workers say that’s not the only reason.
Passengers who arrived at Newark Thursday afternoon were worried about making their flights as they confronted the snaking lines. According to frequent flyers and airport workers, this has become the norm in recent weeks.
Passenger Steven Alexander, who first alerted the I-Team to the problem of long lines at Newark, said that even though he was pre-screened, he waited an hour to get through security last week and made his flight with only 10 minutes to spare.
According to Alexander, passengers were forced all the way to the ground level, where baggage claim is, because of the incredibly long lines. He said the mood got tense as people grew impatient with airport staff, who said they'd bring in the authorities.
“As the crowd became a little rambunctious, they were told to call United Airlines and they threatened to call the Port Authority Police,” Alexander said.
The TSA issued a statement about the long lines, saying they were caused by a rapid growth in travel volume and a renewed emphasis on rigorous screening of passengers and checked bags.
The agency said that traveler numbers are up 7 percent from 2015 and that the agency's ultimate priority is making sure all those passengers are safe.
“Our security is now improved, and that is our most important obligation to the public,” the TSA’s statement said.
But TSA union officials said that a cut in overtime has led to staffing shortages. They said an entire checkpoint at terminal C has been shut down because there aren’t enough TSA employees to work it.
United Airlines said in a statement that it has been working closely with the TSA, particularly at hubs in Newark and Chicago, to address longer wait times at some security checkpoints. It said passengers should give themselves plenty of time before departure, especially during the spring break season.
Steven Alexander’s colleague, Ali Bukhari, would have missed his flight to West Palm Beach, had it not been delayed due to bad weather. He wants TSA to do more.
“If they are saying security is beefed up, they should give adequate notice to the passengers to they arrive in time,” Bukhari said.
The TSA says passengers should arrive two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight to make sure they make it on board.