Blumenthal to airlines; suspend baggage fees

- FILE - TSA agent at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks (WTNH)

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. (WTNH) — As more and more people start their summertime activities, air-travel security screening wait lines are getting longer and longer. Connecticut’s senior U.S. Senator says he has a way to reduce security lines at the nation’s airports, and it can be done easily right away.

The Transportation Security Administration says it’s rushing to beef up its staff, but the effort may not be up to speed fast enough.

Related Content: Help is coming for long airport security lines

Even with the addition of nearly 700 new screeners, the TSA is warning about long security line waits as the summer travel get underway.  WLS-TV in Chicago reports that 450 people were stranded at O’Hare International Airport last night when they couldn’t get to the gate on time and missed their flight, even though the travelers got to the airport three hours ahead of time.

At Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, travelers say there is another factor that may be contributing to the longer security lines.

“There was a backup putting big bags through when we checked in and I actually over packed my carry-on so that I wouldn’t have to check it and it’s 25 dollars or more to check a bag,” said Melissa Pionzio of East Hampton.

Related Content: U.S. air traveler patience with TSA at ‘breaking point’

If people are packing more into their carry-on bags in order to avoid paying airline fees for checked luggage, it can take them longer to get through the security lines.  The TSA’s own estimate is that baggage fees mean 27-percent more carry-on bags, causing longer lines and wait times than check points without fees.

“These wait lines will become a source of not only aggravation but also diminished safety, they are indeed becoming a national crisis,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal today shortly before he boarded a plane for Washington.

Related Content: Airlines encourage frustrated passengers to post #ihatethewait

Senator Blumenthal is calling on all the airlines to suspend the baggage fees, at least for this summer, noting that they were imposed when fuel costs were high, which is no longer the case.

“I think it’s a great idea when you see some of the things that people are bringing on board some of these planes to avoid the baggage fees,” said David Veleber, of Cheshire, as entered the TSA security line.  “Absolutely a great idea,” added Raju Bangalore of Avon.  “It’s going to get the lines moving quicker so people can get through the security safely and quickly.”

Related Content: NYC Airports: We Can No Longer Tolerate TSA’s ‘Inadequacy’

A spokesperson for the airlines’ trade association calling this idea a misguided attempt at reregulating the airline industry. Melanie Hinton of the “Airlines for America” association adding that a better course would be to urge the TSA to ensure adequate staffing and encourage people to sign up for the TSA precheck program.

They also say passengers should be arriving two full hours ahead for domestic flights and at least three hours for international flights.

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