The head of the Homeland Security Department praised the short wait times at airport security checkpoints over the July Fourth weekend, which saw some of the busiest travel volumes in almost a decade.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement on Tuesday that the average wait times for passengers in standard security lines were less than 10 minutes over the holiday weekend, while those in PreCheck lanes waited less than five minutes.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened 10.7 million travelers over the weekend, with June 30 and 31 being the highest-volume travel days since 2007.
More than 100 screening officers and volunteers were transferred to the seven busiest airports in order to enhance the efficiency of screening operations, according to Johnson.
“TSA's success this weekend is a testament to the hard work of the men and women of the agency – both its leadership and, more importantly, those on the front lines at the airports,” Johnson said. “I also salute TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger and his leadership team for ably navigating the agency during these very demanding times.”
Johnson said the quality of security has not been sacrificed in order to ease long lines at checkpoints.
“Particularly in the current global threat environment, we are not compromising or short-cutting aviation security, while meeting increased travel volume,” he said.
The TSA faced intense criticism this spring for overwhelmed security lines that led to three-hour wait times in some cases and thousands of missed flights around the country. The agency is also dealing with a beefed-up security presence at airports after two major terrorist attacks on airports abroad in recent months.
Both July Fourth and Memorial Day weekend showed signs that the security screening situation is improving.
To help speed up wait times, Congress approved shifting a total of $62 million within TSA’s current budget to hire 768 new screening officers, pay overtime to current employees and convert 2,784 officers from part-time to full-time.
The TSA is still planning to hire an additional 600 screening officers this year and will expand automated screening technology at a handful of airports this fall.
“We are not declaring victory,” Johnson said. “We plan to do more.”