Long waits for security checks have become an unwanted part of the experience at Denver International Airport in recent months, trying passengers’ patience as baggage claims snake back and urgent concerns of missed flights.
On four of the last five days, including Monday morning, the DIA deployment of Warning of long wait on its social media accounts. At times, it takes more than an hour to go through security – posing a risk to even passengers who heed the DIA’s advice at least two hours before the departure of their flights.
Although the Transportation Security Administration manages the security checks, frustrated passengers enter the DIA.
“The lines were at a peak for security this morning!” In response to the latest DIA advisory, Julie Murphy CV of Denver tweeted on Monday. “And forget social distancing. You (also) need to think about better organization including better signage.”
According to airport and TSA officials, several factors are behind the pulse-quickening lines at the DIA’s three passenger screening checkpoints:
- Higher passenger volume, as DIA has recovered from the pandemic travel plunge this summer faster than most US airports. This has flooded security with a higher proportion than leisure travelers. Most haven’t signed up for TSA PreCheck or other pre-withdrawal options, which allow for quicker processing through a separate line.
- Lack of a space at the northern checkpoint, where construction walls for the next phase of DIA’s terminal renovation project installed in mid-summer, closed four of the 12 screening lanes.
- TSA staffing, though an agency spokesperson says the Denver operation has filled several openings in recent months. It is also modeled on a national corps of Floating Screening Officers to fill the work schedules in the DIA.
The result has been a grinding experience for commuters – though nothing has quite reached the scale of security backup until recently. On 20 August, a partial breakdown of the Concourse train system wreaked havoc at the airport.
TSA Coordinates With Airlines
TSA spokeswoman Laurie Dankers said the agency coordinates with airlines to project checkpoint volume and assign employees with the ability to open all lanes at DIA’s north, south and A-bridge checkpoints during peak volume periods. .
But sometimes that legwork can be underestimated crushing the crowd at a particular checkpoint, catching the TSA off guard with a few lanes closed. Plus, the TSA recently opened a PreCheck lane at the South Checkpoint only in times of crisis, prompting members’ complaints.
Regardless, the busiest periods still affect the screening capacity of the DIA, Dankers said, favoring lines far beyond the usual snacking queues. Construction walls that cut into the northern checkpoint are accommodating an extension to the upper level, where a new security screening area is expected to increase that capacity – but not until early 2024.
“Over the past week, TSA has screened more than 382,000 passengers through security checkpoints in the Den,” Dankers said in a statement. “It ranks DEN as one of the busiest airports in the country for TSA security checkpoint operations.”
According to TSA data cited in a weekly DIA report, last week’s traffic was 21% below 2019’s pre-pandemic levels; That compares to the national average of 27%. The DIA saw high checkpoint traffic earlier this summer, with 450,000 or more people being screened each week in July.
But several days in the past week – Thursday, Friday and Sunday – exceeded 60,000, enough to result in extra-long waits.
Wait times are more difficult to estimate
The DIA removed the real-time safety wait indicator from its website as a cost-cutting measure during the pandemic. Spokesperson Stacey Stegman said efforts were underway to restore the facility, hopefully later this year.
Meanwhile, the security agency’s MyTSA smartphone app estimates security waits at airports based on past patterns.
According to the app, DIA’s busiest times — when the wait is 45 minutes or longer — are Monday morning, Friday morning and Sunday during two periods (mid-morning to noon, and again in the evening). it occurs.