Long lines and missed flights fuel criticism of TSA screening

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How Dogs Keep the Homeland Safe

If you think the waits at airport security are bad now, just wait until summer.

That's the warning from American Airlines, the latest in a growing chorus of Transportation Security Administration critics who say the agency isn't doing enough to make sure passengers make their flights.

RELATED: The most frustrating airports around the world

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Long lines and missed flights fuel criticism of TSA screening

1. Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Pakistan

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2. Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport, Saudi Arabia

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3. Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal

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4. Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Philippines

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5. Tashkent International Airport, Uzbekistan

Image Credit: Aleksandr Zykov/Flickr

6. Paris Beauvais-Tille International Airport

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7. Frankfurt Hahn International Airport, Germany

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8. Bergamo Orio al Serio International Airport, Italy

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9. Berlin Tegel International Airport, Germany

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10. New York City LaGuardia International Airport, USA

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Now, read on for the 10 best airports in the world.

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3. Helsinki International Airport, Finland

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5. Vancouver International Airport, Canada

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6. Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia

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7. Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong

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8. Tokyo Haneda International Airport, Japan

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9. Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport, Netherlands

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10. Zurich International Airport, Switzerland

Image Credit: whatleydude/Flickr

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"The lines at TSA checkpoints nationwide have become unacceptable," American spokesman Ross Feinstein said in a statement Wednesday. "The result: our customers are waiting in TSA lines greater than one hour."

And the problem got "exponentially" worse in the first three months of the year, normally slow times for air travel, he said.

During the spring-break week of March 14-20, nearly 6,800 American passengers missed flights because of checkpoint delays, with the worst cases occurring in Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas and Philadelphia.

RELATED: Weird things confiscated at one NY airport

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Long lines and missed flights fuel criticism of TSA screening
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: A toy chainsaw is displayed after being confiscated at an airport security checkpoint at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Nunchakus and a Chinese star are displayed after being confiscated at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Prohibited excercise weights and a vice grip displayed after being confiscated at airport security checkpoints at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: 'Credit card' knives are displayed after being confiscated at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: A bottle opener is displayed after being confiscated at an airport security checkpoint at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Knives are displayed after being confiscated at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Knives and assorted prohibited items are displayed after being confiscated at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: A piece of artwork is displayed after being confiscated at an airport security checkpoint at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: A knife is displayed after being confiscated at an airport security checkpoint at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: A pair of scissors is displayed after being confiscated at an airport security checkpoint at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Toy guns are displayed after being confiscated at airport security checkpoints at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: A small anchor is displayed after being confiscated at an airport security checkpoint at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Knives and prohibited items are displayed after being confiscated at airport security checkpoints at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Box cutters are displayed after being confiscated at an airport security checkpoint at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Fake grenades and ammunition is displayed after being confiscated at airport security checkpoints at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: A meat cleaver is displayed after being confiscated at an airport security checkpoint at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: A belt buckle with a toy gun is displayed after being confiscated at an airport security checkpoint at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage and is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: A toy gun is displayed after being confiscated at an airport security checkpoint at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: A toy daggar is displayed after being confiscated at an airport security checkpoint at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Prohibited liquids are displayed after being confiscated at the JFK International Airport on November 18, 2014 in New York City. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), displayed a cash of weapons and prohibited items taken up from travelers at airport security checkpoints and from checked luggage. The federal agency is reminding people to pack carefully during the heavy holiday travel season. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
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"As we approach spring and summer, we are concerned that these lines will grow even longer," Feinstein said.

READ MORE: Huge Increase in Passengers Causing Air Travel Nightmares

The warning came a week after the director of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport threatened to replace TSA personnel with private security contractors. Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is considering doing the same.

A Chicago aviation commissioner told the Chicago Tribune that the lines at O'Hare International Airport were "severe" and that the city was pushing the TSA to shorten them.

The uproar puts the TSA -- created in the aftermath of 9/11 -- in a tough spot: make sure no terrorists get on a plane, but also avoid inconveniencing millions of law-abiding travelers while fighting budget cuts.

The agency is struggling to find the right balance. As the number of fliers have increased, its staff of screeners has shrunk. Last summer, its acting head was reassigned after undercover investigators smuggled weapons, fake explosives and other contraband through checkpoints at dozens of airports.

The TSA says it has since tightened operations and improved inspections. It has pushed more people to sign up for its pre-screening program.

READ MORE: TSA Chief: 'Chaos' of Brussels Attacks Motivates Agency Improvements

A TSA spokesman cited recent terror attacks in Brussels and a hijacked airliner in Egypt as examples of a challenging "threat environment" in which American transportation networks are considered high-value targets.

With double-digit increases in travel expected at many airports this summer, the TSA is planning to expand the use of bomb-sniffing dogs along with "accelerated hiring" and more overtime staffing, the spokesman said.

The TSA has fought to stem budget cuts and this year has asked for money to hire 300 additional screeners, which would represent a minuscule increase for a staff of 42,525.

So the agency still recommends showing up at the airport two hours before a flight's departure.

"Traveler security is TSA's number one priority and we will remain intensely focused on this important mission," the spokesman said.

RELATED: More odd items trying to be smuggled through airports

4 PHOTOS
odd items found trying to be smuggled into airports, confiscated items
See Gallery
Long lines and missed flights fuel criticism of TSA screening
Some of 66 dead canaries are on display at the customs sector of the Guarulhos international airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on September 25, 2008, prior to be sent back to their country of origin Peru. A Portuguese national smuggling 200 canaries was arrested upon arriving from Lima and was accused of animal trafficking. 66 of the 200 birds died from suffocation, authorities said. AFP PHOTO/Mauricio LIMA (Photo credit should read MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images)
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 6: Police evidence, in connection with UK beauty student, Eleanor Kathleen Taylor's arrest, is displayed in this Police handout image April 6, 2006 in Perth, Australia. Taylor was apprehended on April 2, 2006 at Perth Airport for allegedly trying to smuggle more than 10,000 amphetamine tablets into Australia. (Photo by Australian Federal Police via Getty Images)
INDONESIA - 1990/12/17: The return of the Bangkok Six. Six baby orang-utans were found in crates labelled as 'live birds' on the tarmac at Bangkok's airport. They had been smuggled out of Borneo and were bound for Belgrade. Professor Biruté Galdikas and volunteer Dianne Taylor-Snow repatriated the baby's back to the rehabilitation center called Camp Leakey in Borneo.. (Photo by Peter Charlesworth/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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