It will take at least 100 more TSA agents at each of the three New York City-area airports to significantly cut down on screening wait times, Sen. Charles Schumer said Monday.
Schumer pushed the idea of converting more than 2,700 part-time agents to full-time status, and hiring 600 more people as lines continue to grow at airports across the country. That, he said, will take about $28 million.
“The reports about travel this weekend are mixed: in some places it was better, in some places it was worse. In no place was it good,” Schumer said, speaking at a news conference at his Manhattan offices. “And slight improvement just won’t fly.”
This month, Schumer requested an increase in agents in the New York area, as well as adding more dogs to make the process faster. He said Monday that about 70 agents, and more dogs, were added to each airport, but that’s not good enough.
Wait times at Newark Liberty, Kennedy and LaGuardia airports have been “abysmal,” the Port Authority said in a letter to the TSA this month. The average wait period for Kennedy was up 82 percent, from an average 11.5 minutes in 2015 to 20.9 minutes in 2016, from March 15 to April 15 this year, compared to the same time period last year, according to the Port Authority.
Adding the personnel through private contractors, however, isn’t the answer, Schumer said.
“You’ve got to be a little worried about private contractors because they may not put security first, they may put profit first,” Schumer said. “The better way to do this is with TSA agents.”
Another option, Schumer said, is the TSA’s PreCheck program. If a traveler is approved for this, they do not need to remove things like their shoes, belts, or laptops.
There is an $85 application fee, which is valid for five years.
“[The] TSA messed up — they didn’t advertise pre-screening, make it easy to do pre-screening. But it’s great because pre-screening cuts the time in half,” Schumer said. “It is expensive for some. But even if you can’t afford it, if other people use it, it’s going to make your wait quicker.”
A representative with the TSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.