Several hours of waiting in line to be screened by Transportation Security Administration agents were reduced to five to 10 minutes Thursday at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport after the agency was able to get more screeners at checkpoints and open more lanes.
Hundreds of travelers trying to catch flights Wednesday found themselves in lines that extended into the airport’s atrium. The problem was lack of screeners and other TSA workers because they could not get to the airport do the icy gridlock that immobilized the metro area’s interstates and secondary streets.
“The North, South and Main checkpoints are now open, and we’re starting to get more folks in so it’s looking a lot better today,” TSA spokesman Mark Howell told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Howell said the airport authority made arrangements with the Atlanta Police Department to send cruisers to pick up about a dozen TSA agents who could not get in late Wednesday and the agency was able to open more security checkpoints and lanes once they arrived.
The TSA’s main checkpoint, which has a total of 22 lanes, had only about six lanes open on Wednesday but was up to 16 open lanes on Thursday. All of the TSA’s checkpoints were operating Thursday with screeners, inspectors, canine units and cargo staffers, Howell said.
Howell also said the TSA agents were handling any additional passengers at the airport because of canceled flights due the winter storm that gripped metro Atlanta and other parts of the country.
Delta Air Lines said it had to deal with similar staffing issues due to the weather. Spokesman Morgan Durrant said some Delta and other critical aviation employees were unable to get to the airport.
“This led to additional, unplanned cancellations Wednesday evening and Thursday morning,” Durrant said. The spokesman said more than 700 flights remained cancelled as of Thursday afternoon. Some customer service employees slept for a second night in aircraft parked at gates.
Southwest spokeman Dan Landson said the airline and AirTran, which Southwest also owns, canceled more than 175 flights system-wide do to the weather. The companies average 3,600 flights daily.
“We’re working with our customers to make sure they are accommodated to get to their destinations safely,” Landson said.
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, the largest carrier serving the Atlanta airport, said Wednesday it had canceled more than 1,200 flights due to the winter storm.
Airport communications director Reese McCranie said passengers should give themselves two hours’ cushion once they arrive at the airport.