The Transportation Security Agency has become a news spectacle once again, as their massive lines have grown into an increasingly unreasonable inconvenience for passengers.
While the TSA grovels for public sympathy and more taxpayer money, here are five things you need to know about the lines.
1. The TSA's absurd lines resulted in "hundreds of passengers" stuck overnight in O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, IL. ABC News reports that 450 passengers did not make it to their flight on Tuesday evening, some of them even waiting two to three hours to get through the line. Many passengers had to stay overnight in the airport and sleep in cots earlier in the week.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel condemned the lines, stating: "The TSA wait times at Chicago’s airports have been unacceptable. There is no excuse for passengers to wait in line for hours. The resources we have secured are an important step in providing needed relief for the traveling public, as well as ensuring the safety and security of our passengers."
TSA administrator Peter Neffenger apologized for his agency's incompetence, saying, "We’ve got a team out there right now trying to figure out what the root cause of that were. We are not seeing that kind of problem throughout the system."
2. Some airports and airlines are instructing passengers to arrive as early as three hours before their flight. USA Today reports that Denver, CO's airport, for instance, is advising their passengers to arrive that early because they have had TSA wait times of 60-90 minutes at peak traffic. In New York City, flight passengers are reportedly at their "breaking point."
3. There are some airports who are resorting to entertainers and horses to alleviate passenger stress. The UK Telegraph reports that the San Diego airport recruited the Fern Street Circus to keep the people occupied from boredom while waiting in the lengthy lines. The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport brought in "therapy ponies" (no really).
"Animals help reduce stress and anxiety levels and put smiles on people's faces," said Mindy Kershner, an airport spokeswoman, to NBC News. "Unlike service animals, who are working and should not be touched, therapy animals can be patted and hugged."
Other airports have provided live music and snacks for passengers waiting in line. The airports are having to resort to this kind of desperation as angry travelers tweet out #IHateTheWait.
4. The TSA blames Congress...and you. In a letter responding to criticism, the TSA casually pointed the finger at passengers for longer wait times at the New York airports in a press release.
"In many cases bringing more than the airline industry standard of one carry-on bag and one personal item per traveler," the loathed agency said. "Individuals who come to the TSA checkpoint unprepared for a trip can have a negative impact on the time it takes to complete the screening process."
The TSA has also blamed it on being understaffed and would like more money from Congress to ameliorate the situation.
5. The problem appears to be a result of the TSA's incompetence, or perhaps even a manufactured controversy. Despite all the hoopla over the TSA lines, Twitchy found a number of people who didn't experience any problems with the lines:
After all the stories about TSApocalypse we got to the airport 2.5 hours early and ... got through security in 20 minutes.— Sonny Bunch (@SonnyBunch) May 18, 2016
No line at all now. Amazing what happens when media shows up. pic.twitter.com/O0ZX5D4C0j— Brian Feldman (@BFeldman) May 18, 2016
@TSA no problems at CLE this AM. Short lines both Pre-Check and regular. Thanks Cleveland TSA for getting it done.— Dominic Mancuso (@DJMancusoJr) May 18, 2016
Really think TSA "crisis" is manufactured. Seems like a road show, opening and closing in one city, then another. https://t.co/798POwpHXp— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) May 18, 2016
Are the big lines nothing more than a publicity stunt for the TSA to advocate for more funding from Congress? Perhaps. Peter Greenberg, CBS News's travel editor, told a local Chicago CBS station it's more likely due to the TSA's incompetence.
"TSA is not adjusting to basic airline schedules and peak passenger flow times," Greenberg said, pointing to the fact that the agency did not put forth the appropriate number of staff members for the peak hours of traffic.
Whatever the reason, throwing more money at the TSA is not the answer, as columnist Michelle Malkin explains:
The 15-year-old Transportation Security Administration now has a massive annual budget of nearly $7.6 billion and a workforce of nearly 60,000. They had enough tax dollars to waste on an idiotic $1.4 million iPad app that randomly points left or right; $3 million on more than 200 useless explosive detection "puffer" machines that didn't detect explosives reliably; and unknown gobs in awards and automatic bonuses to senior TSA managers at a time when the agency was repeatedly failing internal tests of its ability to stop weapons, bombs and terror threats.
Yet, last week, with airlines, airports and customers all raising holy hell, Congress scraped together $34 million more to pay TSA screeners overtime and fund nearly 800 more screeners to address the summer travel crush.
Some airports are threatening to privatize the TSA. It would certainly be in their best interest to do so.