Airlines have had enough of the recent chaos at airports caused by understaffed Transportation Security Administration checkpoints.
American Airlines chief operating officer Robert Isom said executives from all the major US carriers met with the head of the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security last week to air their grievances over the situation.
Isom wrote about the meeting in a letter to employees, dated May 18.
"Two words: TSA lines," Isom wrote in the letter, "Right now those words evoke frustration from all of us, as well as our customers who continue to miss flights due to lines that are literally out the door."
The delays — which American Airlines attributes to severe under-staffing on the part of the TSA — have been growing for months but reached new heights last weekend when passengers at Chicago's O'Hare airport were left stranded after security lines exceeded three hours.
"We all agree that the TSA plays a vital role in protecting the traveling public and we're not in favor of anything that jeopardizes that safety," Isom wrote. "However, tens of thousands of customers have missed their flights and tens of thousands of checked bags have been delayed in TSA resolutions rooms due to low staffing."
"This is unacceptable to all of us, and the federal government can, and should, do better," he added.
$4 million more
In the letter, Isom also said American Airlines will spend $4 million to provide contract staff at TSA checkpoints in the airline's major hubs and gateway cities. These staff members will be used in non-screening functions and crowd management so that trained TSA staff can focus solely on screening and security. The airline already spends $17 million each year to help reduce wait times.
In addition, the airline will help the TSA expand its canine screening program so that more passengers can receive expedited screening.
RELATED: See some of the strangest items confiscated by the TSA:
Some of the strangest and most terrifying objects TSA has confiscated
American Airlines is fed up with the TSA and taking matters into its own hands
A Newark (EWR) traveler attempted to take their hoe on the plane. If you need to travel with your gardening hoe, it’ll have to go in your checked bag.
Packing list: Socks. ✅ Toothbrush. ✅ Curling Iron. ✅ Post-apocalyptic bullet-adorned gas mask. ❌ While gas masks are allowed in carry-on bags, replica bullets are not. This was discovered in a carry-on bag at Miami (MIA). Maybe he was catching a one way flight to #FuryRoad?
Talk about deadheading... This crusty ol' chap is actually a prop from the #TexasChainsawMassacre movie. He was brought through a checkpoint at the Atlanta (#ATL) International Airport, where as you can see, he was screened and sent on his jolly way. #TSAOnTheJob
We’re pretty sure this isn’t a letter opener. A bladed dragon claw perhaps??? Whatever it is, it should be packed in checked baggage. It was discovered in a carry-on bag at Atlanta (ATL).
This ornate flask of black powder was discovered in a carry-on bag at Allentown (ABE). While it is a fancy flask, the black powder contained within is an explosive and is strictly prohibited in both carry-on and checked bags.
Attention! This is not a drill… It’s just a really large wrench. Tools over 7” must be packed in checked baggage. Especially 18-inch crescent wrenches like this one that our officers discovered in a carry-on bag at New York Kennedy Airport (JFK). #TSATravelTips
With a simple unsnap and pull, this mild mannered belt becomes BELT KNIFE! Clever idea, but a bad idea to wear it through the checkpoint or pack it in your carry-on bag. Concealed weapons can lead to fines and arrest. Please pack items such as this in your checked baggage. This was discovered in a carry-on bag at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW). #TSAGoodCatch
While some travelers are worried about packing nail clippers (they are allowed), others pack a pair of five-bladed floggers. You guessed it; these are not allowed in carry-on bags. If you’re in a situation where you’re going to need your floggers, they’ll have to be packed in checked baggage. These were discovered last week in a carry-on bag at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas (IAH). #TSATravelTips
#TSAGoodCatch - This knife was discovered concealed in a bottle of pills at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest. Please pack them in your checked bag.
#TSAGoodCatch - This comb dagger was discovered in a carry-on bag at the Lihue Airport (LIH) in Hawaii. Knives are always prohibited in carry-on bags no matter the size. Concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest.
#TSAGoodCatch - This cane sword was detected recently in a passenger’s carry-on property at Las Vegas (LAS). All knives and swords are prohibited in carry-on bags, and concealed items can lead to arrest and fines.
#TSAGoodCatch - This push dagger was discovered in a package of gum at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW). Knives are always prohibited from carry-on bags, but concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest.
#TSAGoodCatch - Another #Batarang was discovered in a carry-on bag. This time it was at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD). Next time, leave your batarang in the bat cave, #Batman!
#TSAGoodCatch - A throwing star was discovered in a carved-out compartment in a wooden cellphone case at Ontario (ONT) in a carry-on bag. Concealed items can lead to fines and arrest.
#TSAGoodCatch - This #bejeweled lipstick stun gun was discovered in a carry-on bag at the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). All stun guns are prohibited from being packed in carry-on bags or carried on your person.
#TSAGoodCatch - These neon green faux blood adorned machetes and throwing knives were discovered in a carry-on bag at the Portland International Airport (PDX). While machetes and throwing knives are prohibited in carry-on bags, they may be packed in checked baggage that goes in the luggage hold under the plane.
#TBT April, 2014 - An 8.5” knife was discovered inside an enchilada at the Sonoma County Airport (STS). While this was a great catch, the passenger’s intent was delicious, not malicious, and she was cleared for travel. It’s always important to double check your bags and enchiladas.
Agent Neville Flynn would be extremely proud of our officers at the Miami International Airport (MIA). You see, Agent Flynn has HAD IT with snakes on planes, and our officers prevented a young Ball Python from flying the friendly skies this past Sunday.
A traveler on her way to the Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) in Barbados attempted to smuggle the snakelet inside of an external hard drive packed in her checked bag. If you think airplane seats can feel constricting, imagine how this little guy felt! Talk about bad memories!
While the python itself posed no danger to anyone on the aircraft, an organic item concealed inside electronics raises security concerns, which is why our officers took a closer look.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service ( @USFWS ) was notified. They responded and took possession of the snake and cited the traveler. Both the traveler and the snake missed their flight.
Conversationally, this python had not gone full monty. It was wearing a nylon stocking.
#TBT - May 2014 - This mallet was discovered in a traveler’s carry-on property at the Burlington International Airport (BTV). Items such as sledgehammers and mallets are considered bludgeons and are prohibited from being packed in carry-on bags. Checked baggage is fine.
#TSAGoodCatch - This ice pick concealed inside of a cane was discovered in a traveler’s carry-on property at Newark (EWR). Concealed weapons can lead to fines and arrest.
#TSAGoodCatch - These nunchucks were discovered in a traveler’s carry-on bag at the Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). Nunchucks are prohibited from being transported in carry-on bags, but may be packed in checked bags as long as they’re not illegal where you are traveling.
#TSATravelTips - Marijuana was discovered concealed in a jar of peanut butter in a checked bag at San Jose (SJC). As we’ve said before, we’re not looking for illegal narcotics, but we have to report them to law enforcement when discovered. #TSAGoodCatch
#TSAGoodCatch - This key knife was discovered at the Erie International Airport (ERI). All knives are prohibited from carry-on bags. Concealed knives can lead to arrests and fines.
#TBT December 2013 - This loaded 9mm was discovered in a shoe inside a carry-on bag at the Grand Junction Regional Airport (GJT). This is one of the 1,813 firearms that were discovered in carry-on bags in 2013. 1,477 of those were loaded. While firearms are prohibited in carry-on bags, you can pack them in your checked baggage, as long as you meet the packing guidelines: bit.ly/travelingwithfirearms.
#TBT August 2011 -- Two birds were discovered during a pat-down that was being administered due to bulky clothing at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). They were wrapped in socks and taped to the leg and chest of a woman who was traveling to China. @USFWS officers arrested the woman on suspicion of smuggling and exporting an endangered species out of the United States. #TSAGoodCatch
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American will also launch an aggressive program to encourage its customers to sign up for TSA's PreCheck program to reduce the number of people in security lines.
Two words: TSA lines. Right now those words evoke frustration from all of us, as well as our customers who continue to miss flights due to lines that are literally out the door. Long lines also aren't fair to our team members, who ultimately take the brunt of our customers' frustrations. As we head into the busy summer travel season, I wanted to fill you in on some of our efforts to address the situation.
In early March we led the industry by raising our concerns about the growing length of security lines. We contacted government officials in Washington, and spoke with the media in order to reach the general public. Thanks in part to our efforts, Congress reallocated $34 million in TSA funding last week, which will allow the agency to pay overtime to existing staff and hire an additional 768 screeners by June 15. In order to provide TSA Pre✓ to more customers, the TSA is also relocating 28 canine teams to the 20 busiest airports nationwide, including all of our hubs and gateways.
It's a decent start, but it isn't enough, especially for our customers who are now late for — or missed — their flight. The only viable way to fix these long lines is for TSA to increase their staffing at checkpoints throughout the country. In the meantime, we're doing what we can to help improve the travel experience this summer by committing the following resources to assist our employees and customers:
Additional contract staff: We will spend an additional $4 million to provide contract staff at our U.S. hubs and gateways. This is on top of the $17 million we spend annually to help reduce customers' wait times. The money will fund contract staff to relieve TSA officers from non-screening functions, like bin running and queue management, so that TSA officers can focus solely on the screening and security aspects of their jobs.
Expansion of canine teams: American is looking at ways to fund additional support for canine teams. TSA uses specially-trained "passenger screening canines" to make real-time threat assessments of passengers at the security checkpoint. When this program is in use, TSA will increase the number of customers who may receive expedited screening.
Promoting TSA Pre✓: We will launch an aggressive campaign to promote TSA Pre✓ to all of our customers and AAdvantage members, and are looking at opportunities to enroll customers on aa.com. But we continuously receive negative feedback from customers when these dedicated lanes are closed, so we need assurance that TSA will keep TSA Pre✓ lanes open throughout the day.
This isn't just an American Airlines issue; our competitors' hubs also have long lines as well. So much so that last week, the leadership teams of the major U.S. airlines shared their individual frustrations with TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson. It was clear that all of us feel the same way about the effect these lines have on our employees and customers.
We all agree that the TSA plays a vital role in protecting the traveling public and we're not in favor of anything that jeopardizes that safety. However, tens of thousands of customers have missed their flights and tens of thousands of checked bags have been delayed in TSA resolutions rooms due to low staffing. This is unacceptable to all of us, and the federal government can, and should, do better.
Until the lines are fixed and TSA is properly staffed to handle the traffic, our Regulatory, Government Affairs and Corporate Security teams will continue to interact daily with TSA and DHS leadership. Rest assured they are sharing all of our concerns. Thanks for all you are doing to take care of our customers and each other, especially under these circumstances.