Altered MSP construction timeline is a welcome step for Minnesotans, but doesn’t change the fact that TSA reduced its number of screeners by 6% at MSP while passenger traffic increased 12%
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) applauded the Metropolitan Airports Commission’s decision to alter construction at the Terminal 1 south checkpoint at the Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) to accommodate school and holiday travel. Klobuchar, however, warned that this accommodation in the construction schedule does not change the fact that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) must increase staffing at MSP to reflect increased ridership, and she reiterated her concerns about TSA’s reduction in the number of screeners at MSP.
“I applaud the decision by officials at MSP to adjust their construction schedule to alleviate congestion ahead of school schedules and holiday travel,” Klobuchar said. “However, this doesn’t change the fact that while MSP has experienced record-breaking passenger growth, TSA actually reduced the number of screeners at MSP. It’s critical that TSA meet this increased demand for air travel and increase staffing levels at MSP before construction resumes next year.”
Klobuchar has sent three letters in the past year to TSA Administrator David Pekoske urging the agency to increase staffing at MSP to address recent increases in wait times at security checkpoints. The Metropolitan Airport Commission has made significant improvements to consolidate, modernize, and streamline its Terminal 1 security checkpoints, but the benefits from the investments in efficiency have been offset by reductions in TSA staffing levels. In 2012, MSP served 33.9 million passengers and had 670 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) officers allocated to the airport. By 2017, MSP traffic had increased to 38 million passengers but TSA had reduced the number of assigned FTE officers to 630. This 12% increase in the number of passengers combined with a 6% reduction in screeners is a concerning trend—particularly as MSP serves an increasing number of domestic and international passengers.
In 2016, Klobuchar helped secure additional K-9 units for the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport which significantly reduced passenger wait times while increasing security. She also worked to pass language increasing the number of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams that worked alongside local law enforcement to secure all public transportation in the city and provide additional support to security staff during the Super Bowl LII in 2018.
Full text of Senator Klobuchar’s most recent letter can be found below:
August 21, 2019
The Honorable David P. Pekoske
Transportation Security Administration
601 South Twelfth Street
Arlington, VA 20598
Dear Administrator Pekoske:
We appreciate the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) willingness in the past to work with us to address security wait time issues at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP). Unfortunately, security wait times at the airport have increased and we request that TSA review the authorized staffing allocation at MSP to ensure the airport has the resources that it needs.
Unfortunately, the continued lack of adequate screener staffing at MSP Airport has created an untenable situation for travelers there. Lines have often stretched across the ticketing lobby in recent months. It is not uncommon that lines for the north security checkpoint overlap with those for the south security checkpoint. We continue to hear horror stories from travelers regarding security wait times. While such anecdotes are not always a reliable source of actual wait times, the message is clear: Travelers using MSP Airport are frustrated and fed up with the long security lines.
Security lines at MSP have become front page news in Minnesota as the passenger mix for the north and south checkpoints has been changed to accommodate a terminal construction project. While the construction project precipitated the decision to change the checkpoint passenger mix, the fact is, the number of security lanes provided for TSA’s use has not been impacted by the construction. And no construction had even begun on the Monday when lines grew out of control.
The long lines and wait times MSP continues to experience have one primary cause: inadequate staffing to operate all the lanes available for the screening process at MSP during peak demand. One remote checkpoint frequently used by business travelers with only carry-on luggage has been closed entirely for months due to the shortage of TSA screeners at MSP. When checkpoint lines get long, there are frequently unstaffed security lanes that could be in service if there were adequate TSA staffing levels at MSP.
In the past, use of Explosive Ordinance Detection canines augmented staff and helped speed security processing. Changes in the procedures for how the dogs are used have resulted in the canines slowing rather than speeding security processing. While the dogs still provide an added layer of security, the fact that they no longer lead to a more efficient screening process means we need more screeners to fill the gap left by changes in canine use.
The situation is exacerbated by the fact that MSP is on track to experience its third consecutive year of record-breaking passenger levels. In addition, while historically only 55 percent of passengers began or ended their flight at MSP, now 64 percent of passengers do, creating a significant increase in demand for screening services.
As demand for screening services at MSP continue to rise, so does our need for a significantly larger number of screening staff.
We appreciate your consideration in this matter and look forward to your response.