What’s good for Washington lawmakers may not be so great for Houston travelers. Recently discussed budget cuts for TSA promise to increase security checkpoint lines at major airports, including the ever-busy Intercontinental Airport in Houston. Noting a need to watch the country-wide deficit, lawmakers have expressed conservative views as it relates to adding new age technology to the security process, as well as additional staff needed to handle the over 600 million air travelers per year. The number of travelers will certainly increase as the country nears the summer season, and as the economy enjoys a tremendous upswing.
It seems that TSA is in a proverbial pickle. Houston travelers are among the most hurried and frustrated with security wait times estimated to be over half-an-hour at both Houston hubs, and complaints by travelers reaching into the hundreds per day. With the budget cuts, that means less people to handle the complaints, and more opportunities to issue one. However, TSA can seem to do nothing about it. Either continue to spend to reduce lines, or face negative sentiments from travelers.
While it may seem that there are more people at the checkpoints to help move people through the lines, the truth is that it still only takes the minimum amount of personnel to get you, your bags, and your family through the scanner. What is causing the increased perception of personnel is the need for body-scanner personnel (male and female depending on the traveler) and “behavior detection personnel” that look as though they are simply standing around, but in fact they are watching for any unusual behavior from travelers passing through the checkpoint. Budget cuts may eliminate the use of the scanners as well as the detectors. This, ironically, will require everyone to go through the generic security detector, and will most likely make travelers’ behavior more erratic – with no one to detect this.
The government is considering a 3% cut to the TSA budget, so what can you do to combat the extra 3% hassle?
First, be creative about getting through security. Make sure you know your traveler status. If you are traveling under a frequent travel program and have accumulated enough points, chances are you qualify to go through a checkpoint designated for such travelers which usually has less people.
Second, if traveling in IAH’s Terminal C, consider getting to the airport a little early, taking the crosswalk from Terminal C to Terminal E, and checking in there. There is usually less than a 10 minute wait in Terminal E. While you pour out into the beginning portion of Terminal E, you simply backtrack a little and can access Terminal C easily.
Third, keep a positive attitude. While the threat of disrobing and emptying everything from your carry-on bag may seem daunting, consider that too much mouth may lead you to the Security office where you will most certainly miss your flight. Avoid too much frustration by dressing in layers, placing the top layers in your carry-on until you get through security, and have your laptops and liquids on the top of your bag for easy access.
Budget cuts are inevitable, which means that lines will get longer. Being prepared can only help you avoid the headache.