Number of complaints over long delays, missed flights due to security screening at US airports increase tenfold

People wait in a security line at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) on March 24, 2016 in New York City.
People wait in a security line at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) on March 24, 2016 in New York City.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - Frustrated travellers are turning to the complaint box in growing numbers as long lines and delays getting through United States airport security result in missed flights.

Complaints filed on such topics as courtesy and processing time surged in March to the highest levels in the past year, according to the Department of Transportation's monthly Air Travel Consumer Report released on Monday (May 16).

Reports filed over the time it took the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to screen passengers grew more than tenfold, to 513 in March this year (2016), from 48 in March 2015. Concern over lack of courtesy by TSA screeners increased more than threefold, to 1,012 in March from 294 a year ago.

Other categories of complaints on the screening process and travellers' personal property were also at the highest levels recorded in the past year, according to the Department of Transportation.

A spokesman for the TSA did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment on Monday's report. 

The TSA is trying to get 500 new airport screeners through training and onto the job by the end of June as a growth in travellers has led to longer lines at airports.

Almost 6,800 people traveling on American Airlines missed flights in March due to delays at TSA checkpoints, airline spokesman Casey Norton said in an interview earlier this month.

The issue has been exacerbated because the TSA was forced to revamp and tighten security after a series of reports last year showing it missed weapons and explosives in bags.

Some members of Congress have complained that TSA failed to plan for the longer lines, while the agency has said its screener workforce has declined under its annual budget.

Staffing authorised by Congress for the TSA, which operates security at airports across the country, has fallen almost 10 per cent from 47,147 full-time employees in 2013 to 42,525 this year, according to agency data.

At the same time, the volume of passengers rose 15 per cent from 643 million to an estimated 740 million this year, according to the TSA.