Airline travel resurgence raises concerns about TSA staffing shortage

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Airlines have started to rebound after more than a year of turbulence caused by the pandemic, but there are some worries that federal security may not have enough staff to handle the increased traffic.

A major milestone was hit on June 11 when more than 2 million people passed through airport security checkpoints. That’s the highest screen volume since the pandemic began.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has said that they have enough staff to handle the volume at Clinton National Airport, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop actively recruiting more employees.

“Right now, on average, we’re seeing about 83 percent of travelers that are back from pre-pandemic numbers,” Patricia Mancha with TSA said.

Some national reports say there’s a labor shortage at airports nationwide, but the TSA said that varies from airport to airport.

“Little Rock is not one of those airports,” Mancha said. “We have enough officers to conduct the screening operations.”

TSA officials said the central Arkansas traveler should not experience longer screening times because of a lack of staffing.

There was concern among travelers that the TSA was using volunteers to screen passengers, but officials said volunteers are used for crowd control only, not the actual screenings, and they do this every year during peak travel times.  

Right now, Thursdays and Sundays are the busiest travel days, and because most people haven’t traveled in more than a year, TSA officials remind travelers to know what’s in their bag.

“One of the things that really slows down the inspection process are prohibited items,” Mancha said.

They also want to remind travelers to get there with plenty of time. Long gone are the days of getting there late thinking no one will be in line because of the pandemic.

To stay ahead of the surging passenger volumes this summer, the TSA is actively hiring security screening officers here at Clinton National Airport.

Right now, the TSA is offering a $1,000 recruitment incentive to new employees.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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