There was considerable hand-wringing in the run-up to the Thanksgiving holiday that travelers would be facing something just this side of hell on earth. Packed planes. Overflowing overhead bins. Overcrowded gate areas. Endless check-in lines. And even longer lines to clear security checkpoints.
At least regarding the latter, the concerns turned out to have been overblown.
According to a statement by Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson, 95 percent of those traveling between November 21 and November 28 cleared security checkpoints in less than 15 minutes, and 99 percent were processed in less than 30 minutes.
In Precheck lines, the numbers were even better: The wait was less than five minutes 97 percent of the time.
That solid performance during the year’s busiest travel period is a welcome, and somewhat unexpected, turnaround from just six months ago, when clogged TSA checkpoints had been blamed for causing more than 70,000 travelers to miss their flights on a single airline, American. Stories of hours-long waits were common. There were calls for the head of the TSA to step down.
While some of the improvement can be traced to more efficient screening, the biggest factor was undoubtedly more straightforward: an increase in manpower. In response to complaints from legislators, airlines, and travelers, the TSA was allowed to hire more than 1,300 new screeners and move almost 2,000 part-timers to full-time status.
If staffing remains at current levels, the outlook for Christmas travel is positive, at least as far as security screening goes. Something to be thankful for: one fewer travel stressor to contend with.
Reader Reality Check
Have you noticed the shorter, faster security lines?
More from SmarterTravel:
- ‘Expiring Miles Should Be Outlawed’ – And They Might Be
- United’s New Bare-Bones Class Makes Economy Look Good
- Free Uber Rides from the Airport. Happy Holidays!
After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.