It came to my attention that some airports such as Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport have been experiencing long security lines and as a result, TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger had to visit the airport on the invitation of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar to address these complaints. Some may argue differently, but discussing wait time should never have been addressed if TSA was doing a better job of monitoring and reacting to this issue. For example, if TSA had a web page, like Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP), where everyone (the airport, airlines, and traveling public) could observe in real-time or near real-time how long it takes to clear security then all parties could then manage, using this objective data, how to resolve long wait times sooner than otherwise.
I want to be perfectly clear that it is about all parties having the same objective information available to them so that everyone can react and make decisions from the same data. Some people, without having this data, might give deference to TSA, and that is precisely why the data must be made available to everyone when it is being created.
Managing wait times using objective data is not something new. CBP closely monitors the flight processing times for arriving flights at the busiest international airports. This shows the number of passengers processed on flights arriving in each hour based on how long it took for those passengers to clear Passport Control. The neat part about this is that, to repeat, the information is objective, which means that it has been developed using the same collection methodology. Everyone is working from the same data source that was created using the same collection protocol.
I will admit that measuring wait times going through TSA security is different from measuring wait times going through CBP security, but airports are figuring out ways of measuring TSA wait times. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport tracks travelers’ phones to estimate how much traffic each line has. The system allows the airport to display to passengers how long the wait in each of its security lines is. It also allows the airport to adjust its resources to respond to demand. The system anonymizes all data and so privacy is not breached. This, in my opinion, is more objective than people self-reporting when they do not know when to start or stop calculating the wait time measurement.
TSA needs to make available to the public objective data on how long it takes to wait in line. The availability of this timely data allows for all parties to observe in real time or near-real time how long it takes to clear TSA security so that all parties can manage from the data. This is a solution that CBP has adopted and is long overdue.