Delta adding workers to cut MSP security wait times

Passengers wait in line at MSP.
Passengers wait in line to go through the new north security checkpoint at Terminal 1 of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Feb. 26.
Leila Navidi | Star Tribune via AP

Delta Air Lines says it will hire about 40 employees to help out TSA screeners this summer at the Twin Cities airport, hoping to reduce security line waits that have at times topped more than an hour.

The new workers will relieve TSA workers of routine tasks such as such as moving the storage bins that travelers put their possessions in. They won't perform actual security related functions, like checking IDs or screening passengers.

Delta said Monday that it will make such commitments at some 30 major airports, spending about $3 to $4 million overall on the effort.

"While we don't have direct authority over these lanes, we know that we can influence and work with the TSA to make the experience better for our customers," said Bill Lentsch, who oversees airport operations for Delta. "We're doing what we can in collaboration with the TSA and the airport to fix the problem."

Delta flight headed to Orlando
A Delta Boeing 767-300 launched out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on its way to Orlando, Florida in May 2015.
Courtesy Emmanuel Canaan

Lentsch didn't have an estimate for how many Delta customers have missed flights because of long security wait times. Nor did he offer a read on what the security delays have cost Delta.

Airline employees will be gently reminding people about carry-on bags limits this summer, he said, but there'll be no breaks on checked-bag fees.

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The Twin Cities airport will also be hiring five more workers to help TSA staffers with mundane tasks, such as directing people to the rights lines. The new hires will be on hand during peak travel times.

But airport spokesman Patrick Hogan expect it'll be a rough summer for travel.

"We expect to break a record this year in terms of passenger levels at MSP and the number of TSA screeners has gone down consistently for the last three or four years," Hogan said. "Put those two together and it doesn't paint a pretty picture."

Hogan says the airport and airlines can only do so much to try to speed up security check wait times. He says more TSA screeners are required.

"We continue to work with the TSA and with our congressional delegation to do what we can to try to increase the number of TSA screeners that are available to us here at MSP," he said. "Ultimately what we need to as it is to have enough screeners here to keep these lines to a minimum."

It's expected the TSA will add more screeners in the Twin Cities and provide money to pay screeners overtime to work extra hours. The agency did not respond to a request for comment.

To guard against potential delays, Twin Cities travelers are advised to be at airport security checkpoints two hours before their flights, especially when wait lines can be at their worst during morning and afternoon rush hours.