MINNEAPOLIS (KSMP) - The new checkpoint at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is the biggest thing TSA had done in years. The problem is, they miscalculated staffing needs and didn't authorize any overtime. But long wait times aren't the only problem, there may be a security issue as well.
On Tuesday, it was just another morning at the airport, and another TSA nightmare. The lines at two passenger checkpoints were running nearly the length of the main lobby.
"Absolutely stupid, I've never seen a thing like this in my whole life,” Barb Larson, of Sturgeon Lake, said.
It had been over an hour wait for Larson, who even got there 2 1/2 before her flight.
The lines began over the weekend after TSA launched its new North Security Checkpoint to improve wait times. But TSA’s top boss at MSP Airport, Cliff Van Leuven, wouldn't authorize the overtime to handle the new configuration.
In a statement, TSA blames Congress. It reads, in part:
“TSA’s current budget, which is appropriated by Congress, caps the uniformed screening workforce staffing at the same level nationwide as in FY 2015. This is the lowest staffing level in five years. The TSA Administrator requested from Congress that further planned cuts to our screening force be put on hold.”
TSA also claims the longest wait time on Monday was just 39 minutes. But sources inside TSA told Fox 9 wait times actually reached 75 minutes. Two people Fox 9 tracked waited in line for 50 minutes.
But wait times are only part of the problem -- "From a pure security perspective, it creates a major vulnerability,” Ken Kasprisin, former head of TSA at MSP Airport, said.
Kasprisin says consolidating screening into two checkpoints at opposite ends of the airport, and shutting down the middle checkpoints, may improve efficiency, theoretically; But it will lead to congestion at passenger drop-off. And it creates a massive choke-point in the case of a security incident.
“Any incident is going to create problems at the airport,” Kasprisin said. “But when you have a target rich environment when you put everything in one location, you just exasperated it."
Roughly 30,000 passengers get screened at MSP every single day. They're already seeing some of those spring break travelers, so airport officials are hoping TSA works out the kinks in the system quickly. Meanwhile, same advice as always: arrive two hours early.