Thursday, April 24, 2008

Isakson, Chambliss to TSA: Reduce Delays, Improve Efficiency at Hartsfield-Jackson Security Checkpoints

Warning that federal security at Atlanta’s airport is ill-prepared for the upcoming summer travel season, U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and members of Georgia’s congressional delegation sent a letter to the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration urging the TSA to work with Atlanta airport officials to improve efficiency at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport security checkpoints.

“Hartsfield-Jackson is the busiest airport in the world, and it is absolutely essential for the TSA to provide security that is vigilant but that also allows passengers to get through the checkpoints in a timely manner,” Isakson said. “I have received repeated complaints about the significant wait times at the checkpoints and something needs to be done to improve the situation.”

“We are approaching the busiest time of the year with respect to air travel, and it’s critically important that TSA is fully prepared to handle the large numbers of passengers that will be passing through the checkpoints in an efficient manner, without compromising security,” said Chambliss.

The text of the letter to TSA Administrator Kip Hawley is below. The letter was also signed by U.S. Representatives John Lewis, D-Ga., Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., Jack Kingston, R-Ga., and David Scott, D-Ga.

Dear Administrator Hawley:

We are writing in regards to continuing delays at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. We remain concerned that TSA’s management at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is not sufficiently staffing the security checkpoint, and is not prepared to meet passenger demand during the upcoming busy summer travel season. We also are asking for your assistance in making certain information available to the Department of Aviation so that they can better understand TSA’s scheduling process.

We thank you for sending Melvin Caraway and Kelly Hoggan to Hartsfield-Jackson last summer to meet with Department of Aviation officials and Aviation General Manager Ben DeCosta. We were told the meeting was very productive, and that your staff informed Mr. DeCosta that adding staff to Hartsfield-Jackson was not the answer, but instead scheduling more efficiently is the answer to the delays at Hartsfield-Jackson according to the staffing model. We ask that you share the staffing and scheduling model with Mr. DeCosta and our offices in an effort to better understand what can be done to improve efficiency at the checkpoints at Hartsfield-Jackson.

As you know Mr. DeCosta and the Department of Aviation have committed to spend $25 million to relocate and optimally configure six existing checkpoint lanes and add four new lanes in order to increase throughput capacity by 28% and reduce wait times to a tolerable level. Of course, passengers will not benefit from these additional checkpoint lanes unless TSA staffs them.

We believe that TSA should staff Hartsfield-Jackson towards a goal of 20-minute passenger wait times, and we urge TSA to provide the appropriate staff resources to meet this target. We understand that these new lanes will be ready for operations in September, and it is imperative that TSA begins planning in the near future to fully staff these checkpoint lanes when they open. This adjustment is critical to not only improving customer service, but also to managing the security demands of the world’s busiest passenger airport.

We look forward to your response, and scheduling a meeting with you and Mr. DeCosta to learn about TSA’s scheduling model for Hartsfield-Jackson, as well as how TSA plans to fully staff the new checkpoint lanes. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
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