If you or your family plan to travel this winter break, make sure to prepare for longer airport security lines than you have seen in the past. But the question is: why are lines suddenly so long? Security lines have been delayed since 2016, bringing the TSA to fire Kelly Hogan, their top security official. Predictably, COVID brought air travel down, so its recent resurgence has made security lines increasingly long, in addition to an inept TSA. 

American cryptographer and computer security and privacy specialist Bruce Schneier adds onto this: “my feeling is that the TSA hasn’t been doing the right things for a long time.” He believes that airport security is reactive as opposed to proactive. “The goal isn’t to protect what the terrorists did last week, but to anticipate what they do next week.” In an ABC News experiment, the TSA failed to recognize weapons and explosives 95% of the time. So, if the TSA is really so ineffective, why aren’t planes being destroyed more often? Schneier believes that “there’s nothing to detect.” He proposes that security levels be brought back “down to pre-9/11 levels.”

Photo: Andy Cross of the Denver Post Via Getty Images Caption: Security lines snake around an airport.

CBS News says that “the TSA has blamed the long waits at security on a shortage of screeners, due to federal budget cuts. The agency also has said airlines are seeing record travel volume, meaning more passengers in lines.” This offers insight as to why the TSA has been so inefficient as of late: budget cuts. Congress funds the TSA, and in April of 2016, the House of Representatives weren’t able to pass a budget. Because of this, the TSA was left without funding until the next budget, and was never able to fully recover. 

According to Takeaway, over the past nine years the TSA has decreased its number of employees by ten percent while air travel rose by twelve percent. American Airlines spokesperson Leslie Scott says that they “had to delay 30 flights, and about 450 passengers missed their flights due to the security lines.” 

But all of this raises the question: how do you skip the lines? The most obvious answer is TSA precheck, which is a $78 five-year subscription that allows for efficient and stress-free screening. In addition to this, TSA spokeswoman Lara Uselding highlights the importance of timing. “Mornings on a Monday, evenings on a Monday, mornings and evenings on Fridays, that’s when you have business travelers going out.” Another idea is to scout for lines that may be shorter. “Often if you see a long security line, there will be a much shorter line just a walk away,” says Frommer’s Travel Guide. 

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