NYC Airports: We Can No Longer Tolerate TSA's 'Inadequacy'

JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports are considering private security screening.

ByABC News
May 10, 2016, 12:32 PM

— -- Travelers, it’s not just you.

Management of the New York City area’s three major airports is fed up with long lines at security checkpoints, and it has given the Transportation Security Administration an ultimatum: Either shorten the lines or we’ll find someone else to do it.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, tasked with running John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports, is threatening to privatize the process of screening passengers before boarding their flights, according to a document sent from the Port Authority to TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger.

“We can no longer tolerate the continuing inadequacy of the TSA passenger services,” reads the letter, obtained by ABC News.

According to the Port Authority, from March 15 to April 15 of this year, JFK had 253 reported instances of waits of more than 20 minutes. In 2015 only 10 instances were reported over the same period.

“The patience of the flying public has reached a breaking point,” the letter reads. Passenger wait times have “risen dramatically in recent months, prompting angry complaints from passengers, terminal operators and airlines alike citing inconvenience, delayed flights and missed flight connections.”

While the Port Authority says it understands the challenges facing the TSA, it says it “is exploring the merits” of participating in private screening “to enhance flexibility in the assignments and operating hours of front line screening staff.”

The New York–area airports aren’t the first to do so.

The busiest airport in the country, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, made a similar threat in February.

There are fewer than two dozen airports using private screening. Most of those airports are very small, but there are exceptions.

San Francisco International Airport and Kansas City International Airport both have private firms handling a significant number of passengers. The companies must meet the same standards and protocols as the TSA and pay its officers at least what the TSA pays.

The airports and firms must first pass an approval process.

A TSA representative said that the agency is addressing the growing volume of travelers but that the “TSA’s primary focus is the current threat environment, as the American transportation system remains a high-value target for terrorists.”

The TSA said it will respond to the Port Authority directly. The agency said there is no noticeable difference in wait times between government and privatized screening points. The agency encourages travelers to sign up for TSA Pre or another trusted traveler program, like Global Entry, and to arrive at airports at least two hours before a domestic flight.