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The TSA Has Caused How Many Missed Flights?

While there’s been no shortage of reports of hours-long lines to clear TSA security checkpoints, there has yet to be a full accounting of the harm caused by the system’s breakdown.

How many hours have been wasted? How many travelers have missed their flights? How many flights have been delayed? How much unnecessary stress has been endured? Some of those questions will remain forever unanswered. But today we are closer to achieving clarity on at least one measure of the debacle’s damage to date.

In a Thursday morning Tweet, David Koenig, airline reporter for the Associated Press, quotes Kerry Philipovitch, American’s senior vice president of customer experience, thusly: “Year-to-date, more than 70,000 American Airlines customers have missed flights due to excessive wait times.”

Philipovitch was testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation Security. In the same statement, she went on to charge that TSA screening lapses resulted in more than 40,000 checked bags’ being delayed so far this year.

So, 70,000 American passengers missed their flights. Let’s assume the numbers for Delta, Southwest, and United are roughly comparable, perhaps a bit lower. That generates a conservative estimate of 250,000 missed flights for the Big 4 carriers alone.

And, again extrapolating from American’s numbers, around 150,000 checked bags missed their flights on the four largest U.S. carriers.

Big numbers, big problem. In Philipovitch’s words: “To say customers are agitated is putting it mildly, and the public outcry has resonated.”

Putting it mildly, indeed.

Reader Reality Check

How do you plan to avoid this summer’s security bottlenecks?

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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.

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