Long security lines at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport’s main terminal prompted Minnesota’s two U.S. senators on Wednesday to call for additional staffing from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
On Monday, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) launched a temporary reconfiguration of two security checkpoints in the ticketing lobby of Terminal 1, also known as the Lindbergh terminal. The new system prompted by a construction project has created long lines, confusion and outrage among passengers this week.
But Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Tina Smith, both D-Minn., said the construction exacerbates an already festering problem: TSA staffing has not kept up with the growth of passengers flying from MSP.
“The bottom line is that it is simply unacceptable that authorized TSA staffing at MSP has decreased while passenger traffic has increased,” Klobuchar said at a news conference Wednesday. “It is critical that we do everything possible to mitigate the impact on wait times caused by construction.”
Klobuchar said she has sent two letters to TSA Administrator David Pekoske since last fall urging the agency to bolster staffing at MSP to address recent increases in wait times at security checkpoints.
In 2012, MSP served about 34 million passengers and had 670 full-time equivalent TSA officers allocated to the airport, according to Klobuchar. By 2017, traffic at MSP had increased to 38 million passengers, but the TSA had reduced the number of assigned full-time equivalent officers to 630, she said.
MAC spokesman Patrick Hogan said, “TSA has great staff, there’s just not enough of them.” The TSA is only able to staff 16 of the 21 checkpoint lanes in Terminal 1 at a time, he added.
For example, Checkpoint No. 10 on the skyway between the C and G concourses has been shuttered for months due to TSA staffing problems.
TSA spokeswoman Lauren Sundquist said the agency will not release the number of screeners at MSP.
“TSA at MSP is fully staffed at the authorized number for transportation security officers and brings new officers onboard to fill any vacancies as quickly as possible,” she said.
The temporary reconfiguration, which ends in mid-December, means passengers with TSA PreCheck, Clear with PreCheck, and airport employees must use the south checkpoint, which has six lanes.
Passengers without PreCheck, and with First Class/Sky Priority and standard Clear, should use the north checkpoint, which has 10 lanes.
The construction is part of a broader, multiyear $1.6 billion overhaul of the airport’s busy main terminal.
At MSP, the TSA screens an average of 35,000 travelers a day, but in summer months that number can increase by more than 17% to approximately 41,000 travelers a day.