Standing In A Long Line At The Airport Right Now? You Can Maybe Blame Sequestration

The Department of Transportation issued a foreboding warning about the effects of across-the-board government spending cuts if sequestration went into effect on March 1, which it did. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is already warning travelers of delays, but if you’re currently standing in a long line at airport security, this isn’t news to you.

As I previously mentioned on Friday, I was traveling this weekend and happened to have a nice experience on my journey to Chicago. But fast forward to last night at Chicago’s Midway Airport and I was audibly groaning at the frustratingly slow security process. Now while I can’t say definitively that sequestration is to blame, Napolitano says the delays are real and could be due to spending cuts.

She’s telling airline passengers to head to the airport earlier than before, as the cuts are leading to long lines at security checkpoints. And the looming required furloughs won’t make that any better.

The problem is due to the elimination of overtime for Transportation Security Administration officers and customs agents. The fewer TSA workers on the job to screen passengers, the longer you’ll have to wait to get to your gate. The agency also can’t hire any new workers right now due to hiring freezes, so relief isn’t in sight.

“We are already seeing the effects at some of the ports of entry – at the big airports, for example. Some of them had very long lines this weekend,” Napolitano said at a recent event, according to Reuters. She added that Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport are already experiencing long lines, among others.

Despite criticism that Napolitano and others are ramping up the fear of sequestration’s impact, she is stressing that the issues are all too real.

“Look, people, I don’t mean to scare, I mean to inform. If you’re traveling, get to the airport earlier than you otherwise would,” she said. “And please don’t yell at the Customs officers or the TSA officers – they are not responsible for the sequester.”

I made the mistake of dillydallying on my way to the airport yesterday so perhaps my mad dash to the gate post-security is mainly my fault. Learn from me and listen to Napolitano: the early bird catches the worm and also their flight even if the TSA line is as slow as mud.

Spending cuts already cause long lines at airports: Napolitano [Reuters]