Travelers At O’Hare and Other Airports Face Three Hour Delays While Thousands Miss Flights

We have been discussing the meltdown at airports due to the latest gross negligence by the Transportation Security Administration. At O’Hare, passengers are facing three hour delays with thousands missing flights and even having to rent hotel rooms when unable to make it to their gates in time. What is incredible is that Homeland Security Secretary not only denied that there was any crisis in grinding airports to a standstill but also seemed to blame passengers for failing to yield to the pressure to accept the expedited screening program called PreCheck. Many people object to the program as yielding privacy under coercion from TSA: share personal data or face hours of waiting as punishment. TSA admits that it assumed more passengers would yield to the pressure. They did not. It also admits to failing to properly staff security in a ten percent cut of screeners — a colossal blunder of under-estimating travel numbers. Yet, again, no one appears to be accountable for this massive failure that has left thousands stranded and airlines struggling to reschedule flights, including a separate TSA failure that resulted in the loss of thousands of bags.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson simply told passengers “to be patient” and come three hours early. He added “Our job is to keep the American people safe. We’re not going to compromise aviation security in the face of this.” Really, if the TSA was serious about aviation security, how about fully staffing security gates? The threat to security is to mismanage airports to overload understaffed security gates.

TSA appears to be pointing fingers at Congress and vice versa. There is clearly enough blame to go around, but it is clear that TSA made ridiculous miscalculations and seemed surprised by citizens not yielding to the choice of waiving privacy or waiting in lines. Citizens seem to have the bizarre view that, after hundreds of billions of dollars invested in our airports, they should be able to make their flights without waiting longer in TSA lines than the actual travel time on aircraft. It is curious expectation of competence and minimal levels of service from their government. Maybe we really are to blame.

41 thoughts on “Travelers At O’Hare and Other Airports Face Three Hour Delays While Thousands Miss Flights”

  1. One has to deal with reality no matter how many fingers you want to point. I recently got the Global Entry/Trusted Traveler via the US Customs and Border Patrol. After my experience leaving and returning to O’Hare using this card I was thrilled with the result. My thoughts after flying through the process while others suffered the waits was (unfortunately) “all those chumps are stupid for not having what I have). Sorry for the insult but it’s much better to be on the “no wait” side of the equation. The Global Entry is only really for no waiting in the US Customs lines (not for any other foreign customs port) but instead of a 2 hour wait to leave the airport it was like 10 minutes. The kicker is that it also doubles for TSA Precheck and one doesn’t have to take off shoes, belts, etc. At O’Hare the TSA wait was quite long and all I had to do is just find the Precheck access (not obvious to me) and waltz right in. Objections for this card? None as far as I see. One submits an application which is a typical pain in rear government document ONLINE. Submit, wait for the preliminary OK, then go in for an interview at O’Hare’s international terminal (there are other places to go in the Illinois area and other airports … just look it up). At the office I waited about 30 minutes after my scheduled appointment time then got the “interview” which is pretty much a breeze and straightening out some errors. For instance, on the initial application they ask a woman what their “maiden” name is but they don’t use that term. I forget what it is but it’s a surprise and they get a lot of confused answers. They straighten that out at the interview. They take a digital snapshot of your face. I assume facial recognition is initiated on criminal databases. If all is OK then they take your fingerprints which is a process of putting one’s thumbs on a touchpad type device and then the other fingers. Upon reading I’m sure the prints are checked with all criminal fingerprint databases. Assuming this is done you get an ID number that is good immediately. They send you a card later. You put your ID number on any reservation so the airlines and TSA and Customs know you are a Trusted Traveler ahead of time. And you are done. So you invest the time it takes to fill out the aggravating (DOS looking form BTW) application, go to the interview and maybe sit down and wait, do the 15 minute interview and return home. (At O’Hare just park in the short visit International Terminal parking lot for convenience.) Does one give up any privacy? Not in my view. They evil government knows everything about us that one fills out on this application anyway. Is a photo of you on your driver’s license? Yes. IF you have left your fingerprints at the scene of a crime then don’t do this because you will be busted. Otherwise what’s the difference? All this process might take you a couple hours but you are sitting down and relaxed – not standing in line. Now, at the airports it is like a walk in the park. The best $100 you will ever spend on travel and it’s good for 5 years. Then you will have to renew, like a passport. If you just go for the TSA Precheck it’s $85 for 5 years (I think it’s an entirely different website). For the extra $15/5 years I took the international “fly thru customs” approach. All I can say is that when I avoided that customs line along with the initial long TSA line, it was like having a fast pass card at Universal Orlando and hopping on the Harry Potter rides with no wait. BINGO! Ah, the thrill of it.

  2. Susan,

    You may not have heard this, but officials throughout the administration have been promising to address the situation by hiring more screeners, among other measures. That’s called being accountable, but you won’t hear anything about that on Fox News…because Fox News is not a real news outlet. I suppose that’s news to you, too.

  3. Darren,

    I think you’d have to file suit against the airlines because they’re the ones who technically pay for the TSA. Security is, or should, be a cost of doing business.

    Personally, I’ve never really had much of a problem with TSA, a little attitude on occasion, but not anything bad enough to ruin my day. My sense is that they’re all trying to their best under some difficult circumstances.

  4. I was a “pre check” qualified traveler when I arrived at the airport in Las Vegas on my way to Baltimore. Regardless of my status, I was removed from the line, patted down and verbally abused by a TSA person who accused me of a “failure to cooperate” and threatened to “call his supervisor” when I said that I did not know what he wanted me to do. I am 67 year old retired lawyer who, hopefully, does not look like a terrorist. I pledged to myself from then on never again to travel to or from Las Vegas by air. The encounter so upset me that I related the experience to a waitress at the air port who told me that the treatment and attitude was “common” on the part of the TSA people there.

  5. Oh, I forgot to add about the Canadians…

    Most reports indicate that Canadians want to keep their healthcare, for the reasons I’ve stated above.

    Most Americans wanted to keep their insurance policies, too. That led to the “If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. American families will save an average of $2500/year” whoppers.

    Shouldn’t our government have respected the overwhelming will of the people who wanted to keep their insurance?

  6. randy:

    “The FACT is that in our system with gold plated health insurance when I was with the airlines, I still had to wait for TWO MONTHS to get surgery for my knee.”

    #1 – that’s still about 1/20 the wait time for Canada, so you’re ahead of the game
    #2 – Yes, there is going to be wait times. The question is if they are medically reasonable. Up to 43 weeks wait times is not reasonable.
    #3 – If you didn’t like it, you could go somewhere else. Networks used to be quite a bit larger, so if you didn’t like the service you were receiving, you could go somewhere else. The queues in Canada are imposed by the government, so what are you going to do except fly to the US?

    “So had I no insurance, I would never have been treated.” If you were poor you would have gone to County or an ER.

    “My wife had cancer and was basically told to die since she had no insurance before I met her.” That’s weird. My friend’s sister had advanced melanoma that was beat back into remission at the county hospital. You are probably aware that hospitals and ERs lost money every year treating people with no insurance. Homeless people show up in ERs all the time and are treated. Maybe the doctor she went to was just an ass, as indicated by the fact that he forged medical forms.

    Of course anyone who traveled to Canada and was sick or injured would have used their healthcare system. Also, Canada is really big on prescription drugs, and their patents are a bit different, so sometimes people go there to get meds. If a series of unfortunate events happened and I found myself grievously wounded in Cuba, I would hopefully get medical care. That doesn’t mean I suddenly support their system of taking every dime everyone makes and leaving them with a measly $20/month stipend.

    My problem with the Canadian healthcare system is:
    1. Atrocious wait times
    2. High taxes (the average Canadian pays 42% in taxes)
    3. According to the Canadian government, due to an aging populating and spiraling costs, they will have to spend 97% of all revenue on health care unless they raise massive taxes.
    4. Inefficient bureaucracy
    5. Insufficient doctors

    http://www.torontosun.com/2015/08/27/taxes-eat-up-42-of-average-canadian-familys-income-fraser-institute

    “Canadians retain just 21% of their income after paying the taxman and covering the cost of necessities, according to a Fraser Institute study.

    Taxes gobble up a whopping 42% of the average Canadian family’s income. About 37% of income goes to cover housing, food and clothing.

    “We’ve found … that over the last five decades or so, the tax bill for the average Canadian family has grown dramatically,” said study coauthor Charles Lammam.”

    And, you are to recall, that the Canadian government estimates that massive tax increases will be required in order to keep their system viable. How much more can Canadians give in taxes if they are down to only 21% of their income after taxes and necessities?

    Look, all you and other single payor supporters appear to be telling me is that it’s free for everyone. And you disregard the high wait times, high taxes, and the fact that they are running out of money. All anyone can ever say in support is that Canadians don’t want to give up their health care. I believe you on that. Of course they wouldn’t. They think it’s “free stuff”. Most do not know they will be hit with massive tax increases, and even then it may not be enough. They’ll wait until it either implodes, or they end up like Cuba where everyone gets C$20 to live on a month.

    No one has ever the legitimate concerns with the Canadian healthcare system listed above. It’s just ignore it – we will make it better.

    If you want to have single payor, then please let’s have our politicians just be honest. We would have to pay even higher taxes than Canadians, because we receive massive amounts of indigent immigrants, both legal and illegal. And how would we keep the system from going bankrupt? Because the Canadians haven’t figured it out.

    And the Canadian health care system really isn’t equal for everyone, is it? Those who are better off financially can afford to pay companies to expedite the queue for private surgery in Canada, or fly to the US to get it done. So it wasn’t the great panacea it was purported to be, was it?

    It’s up to all of us to decide if we’d rather pay exorbitant taxes and wait 43 weeks to see a doctor, or if would be better to pay less for private health insurance. Or maybe there is a completely new system no one’s thought of yet.

  7. Thank god the TSA is there to protect us all. I’d hate to think how many terrorists would have ran more planes into skyscrappers if not for the TSA.

  8. Travelers At O’Hare and Other Airports Face Three Hour Delays While Thousands Miss Flights

    How many millions of passengers does the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screen each year at airports in the US?

    TSA screened roughly 700 million passengers in 2015.

    https://www.tsa.gov/news/releases/2016/01/21/tsa-releases-2015-statistics

    If we take the 700 million passengers screened by TSA in 2015 and multiply it by the 14 years TSA has been in existence we arrive at almost 10 billion passengers screened with ZERO terrorists interdicted.

    http://disinfo.com/2012/03/has-the-tsa-ever-foiled-a-terrorist-plot/

    These numbers and the absence of any terrorists intercepted at airport checkpoints reveal TSA’s security theater operation for what it truly is: a program to condition American’s to accept humiliating, intrusive, inane and arbitrary security procedures as a normal part of their daily lives. TSA’s security theater operations have spread to train/bus stations, sporting/concert venues, political rallies and mobile Xray vans for highway checkpoints.

    All without uncovering any terrorists.

  9. LOL! Flyboy blames us taxpayers for not paying more taxes. That’s the ticket, they need “MORE MONEY!” We’ve heard that meme regarding education for decades and the more money we spend, the worse education has gotten. You give govt. employees more money and they simply get fatter and lazier. Govt. is spending other people’s money on other people, the most reckless and inefficient equation there is.

  10. The FACT is that in our system with gold plated health insurance when I was with the airlines, I still had to wait for TWO MONTHS to get surgery for my knee. So the FACT is that in ANY system there is going to be wait time, unless it is an emergency. In our system,before Obama care, if you had no insurance, you could not get medical treatment at all. So had I no insurance, I would never have been treated. At least you are assured of getting medical attention depending on the severity of your illness. My wife had cancer and was basically told to die since she had no insurance before I met her. Fortunately, the doctor she had falsified papers and forms so she could get treatment. She was denied follow up chemo, but then found a way around that too. Even Sara Palin said SHE used the Canadian health carer system at one point in her life. I don’t know if she paid or just cheated.

  11. randyjet – government overpays for contracts that under deliver. It’s one of my pet peeves. And it’s totally unaccountable.

  12. Karen, I most certainly do NOT absolve the TSA for the stupid things they do. In FACT, I have been a long time critic of them for 15 YEARS. The fact is that the current outrage will spur more screeners and hopefully more people getting the short line credentials. That is how a public agency responds to screw ups. With private contractors and businesses who do government work, the opposite is the case as we see time after time with defense contractors and the like. In their cases, their lobbyists go to Congress and demand dispensation for the poor job they do. Even the FBI and other government agencies involved in security, have the same lack of accountability after 9/11. NOBODY lost their job after 9/11, and in the case of the FBI, the jerk who prohibited accessing the would be hijackers computer and ignored the threat, was rewarded! That was W Bush by the way who organized the TSA to begin with. I could write pages about the idiots who Bush appointed to important positions who failed. Yet the US re-elected the fool.

  13. KC – you totally win the comment contest with “Tear Down This Stall!”

  14. randy:

    “Karen S I fly into Canada fairly frequently and on the drive to the hotel, I usually ask the driver how he or she likes the health care in Canada. Without exception after many many talks, I get nothing but rave reviews.”

    On the one hand, Canadians are very attached to their health care system. They like that it’s “free” (because they do not know how much higher they pay in taxes compared to if they just paid for health insurance.) In addition, they want the benefits they already paid for.

    On the other hand, wait times to see a doctor range from 13 to 43 weeks to see a doctor. That is not my opinion, or my taxi driver’s opinion, that is the factual wait times as reported by the Canadian government.

    https://www.fraserinstitute.org/studies/waiting-your-turn-wait-times-for-health-care-in-canada-2015-report

    “There is also a great deal of variation among specialties. Patients wait longest between a GP referral and orthopae-dic surgery (35.7 weeks), while those waiting for radiation oncology begin treatment in 4.1 weeks.” Even if you have cancer you will have to wait an average of a month to start radiation. If you are in debilitating disc pain and require surgery, you’re going to wait 3/5 of a year, plenty of time to become addicted to prescription pain meds.

    And from the Wait Time Alliance:

    http://www.waittimealliance.ca/for-patients/

    “As physicians, Wait Time Alliance members and partners see first-hand the impacts that long waits have on patients. When long waits exist, conditions can worsen and patients face an increased risk of complications that have the potential to require more invasive treatment and follow-up. That’s not to mention the stress that long or uncertain waits cause for patients and their families.

    In the 2004 Health Accord, Canadian governments committed to a 10-year plan to reduce wait times in five priority areas

    Ten years later and considerable money spent, and Canada has seen a lack of consistent progress in reducing these wait times. The piecemeal approach to address wait time issues has meant that not enough attention has been paid to addressing the entire health care system or a patient’s journey through it.”

    So, I believe you that your driver raved about his “free” health care. Many Canadians do, while simultaneously condemning the hideous wait times that cause many to worsen or die while languishing in queue.

    We hold on to “free stuff.” It’s in our nature.

    If we want to pass single payor, then THIS TIME, let’s just be honest. Tell people that you will have to wait up to 43 weeks to see a doctor, and that they system will run entirely out of money in a few decades. (Canada projects that 97% of all revenue will be spent on health care by 2037 without massive tax hikes.)

    Let it pass or fail on its merits.

  15. Personally, I have decided to drive on my vacation this year. BTW, those 3000 bags ‘lost’ in PHX were not lost, they were sent to other facilities to be checked. Three airlines had problems with their scanner and bags had to be scanned elsewhere.

  16. randy:

    Here is the budget for the TSA – page 57:

    https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/FY_2016_DHS_Budget_in_Brief.pdf

    Their budget is $7.3 billion , with $7.09 billion of that discretionary. Who told you they were underfunded?

    Their specific directive is, “Ensuring effective and efficient screening of all air passengers, baggage, and cargo on passenger planes.”

    Clearly, they have failed to meet this goal. So, what happens next?

  17. randyjet:

    “The FACT is that it is CONGRESS who is responsible for this mess.” I agree that Congress is partially responsible, because they allow this unaccountable monstrosity to grind on when it should have been improved/replaced ages ago. And I’m glad they’re not doing body cavity searches on pilots anymore. Who care if the man or woman flying the plane has nail clippers? They’re flying the plane.

    But did Congress miss all those firearms and explosives in security tests? Did Congress make fun of people’s security nude X-rays? Did Congress lose all those bags? Did Congress force the TSA to behave inefficiently? To not change gloves after handling everyone’s crotch?

    You cannot absolve the actual TSA of all responsibility for the poor job they are doing.

  18. The AFGE Union represents federal employees, TSA employees, and DC government employees.

    Government employees are not responsive to consumer complaints. Don’t like it – what are you going to do about it? That’s the problem with the union model – both government and private sector.

    The rest of the private sector gets along just fine with a meritocracy, with laws in place to prevent unlawful termination.

    We do not have a system in place in which our government is held accountable for its poor performance with the TSA (and other sectors). In fact, I recently heard on the radio about a TSA employee who got a 50% bonus ($90,000) all while this wait line fiasco is going on. That is one of the largest problems. The TSA routinely misses security dry runs – missing firearms and explosives when tested. It’s lack of efficiency is atrocious. If people are sleeping on the floor of the airport because they waited 3 hours in security lines and still missed their flight, that’s a pretty egregious problem. But since there is no accountability, we are helpless to do anything about it. AND we pay for hefty bonuses, to add insult to injury.

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