By Micheal Hill
Frequent flyer Matt Ciallella lately has been frequently frustrated — along with millions of air travelers at Newark Liberty International Airport’s long security checkpoint lines.
“It’s getting harder and harder to fly out of here,” he said.
Ciallella seemed to zip right through today. So did the other passengers a stone’s throw from where senators and congressmen were holding a news conference addressing customer complaints about the long lines.
“Anyone flying recently has been subjected to endless lines and insufferable wait times trying to get through security checkpoint here at Newark Liberty and at airports across the country. Many have missed flights and the ensuing chaos and confusion has sent ripple effects across the entire air transportation system,” said Senator Bob Menendez.
Congressman Payne says he came here two months ago and found a security checkpoint line that was so long he couldn’t believe it.
“It was incredible. No person that is traveling in this country should be subjected to the wait lines and the things that they have been going through in order to travel,” said Congressman Donald Payne Jr.
Members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation said they saw the trouble coming last year and earlier this year leaned on the federal Transportation Security Administration to act.
“The security of our airlines is the most important thing. But, what we have been insisting on for months is the fact that security and efficiency, short lines and a good experience in the airport are not incongruent,” said Sen. Cory Booker.
The congressional members announced the TSA was adding 120 screeners for the peak travel season — 95 of them will be permanent at Newark Liberty — increase in canine teams and adding a pre-check enrollment center to speed through security.
“In addition to that we’re seeing a significant upping in overtime. As Senator Menendez said results in about 16,000 additional manhours,” said Booker said
“Look, the security and the safety of the flying public is our number one objective, but people are sick and tired of waiting and we can do better,” Menendez said.
“TSA remains focused on the security of the nation’s transportation system. Events over the past 8 months have re-enforced that terrorist individuals and groups remain intent on attacking the aviation system,” said Thomas Carter of the TSA.
The Port Authority runs Newark Liberty and says 126 million travelers pass through here and JFK and LaGuardia every year, but unnecessarily long security lines could change that.
“We are greatly concerned that continued or further increases in screening point wait times will exasperate customer dissatisfaction, pushing passengers to alternate modes of transportation or to simply cancel their plans altogether,” said Port Authority Chief Security Officer Thomas Belfiore.
“You have a bunch of Jersey guys up here. People in this airport who use this airport have choices to make in this region,” said Booker.
The congressional members said some of the airlines — United and Delta — have agreed to increase staff for peak travel times this summer, but so far Sen. Menendez and others has no takers on their request for airlines to eliminate lucrative baggage fees for the summer.