Sen. Ossoff Presses TSA to Reduce Wait Times at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Atlanta, Ga. — U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff is pressing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to reduce wait times at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

In a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Hearing yesterday, Sen. Ossoff asked TSA Administrator David Pekoske how the agency is proactively working to increase staff capacity and help reduce wait times.

Sen. Ossoff secured a commitment from the Administrator to meet with him and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport leadership, including General Manager Balram “B” Bheodari, to ensure the airport has sufficient staff to reduce wait times.

“As the public returns to air travel after the worst periods thus far of the COVID 19 pandemic, airline passengers have been frustrated by cancellations and long lines at airports in Georgia and across the country,” Sen. Ossoff said.

Click here to watch Sen. Ossoff’s line of questioning:

Please find a transcript below:

SEN. OSSOFF: “I want to begin by addressing staff capacity concerns and delays that are, in particular, affecting Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. As the public returns to air travel after the worst periods thus far of the COVID-19 pandemic, airline passengers have been frustrated by cancellations and long lines at airports in Georgia and across the country. Over the past year, many airports have faced delays due to staffing capacity issues at TSA security checkpoints. How is TSA proactively addressing workforce shortages, through expanded recruitment and employee-retention efforts?”

ADMIN. PEKOSKE: “Sir, thank you for the question. And thank you for the support of the team at ATL, very much appreciated. We are seeing rapid recovery of travel to the point of about 90% of where we are overall pre pandemic — so three years ago, we’re about 90% of those levels. Our staff is not where it needs to be. But in general, across our system every single day at 430 airports in the country, we are meeting our wait-time standards, and those standards are for a non-pre-check passenger to get through screening within 30 minutes, and for a pre-check passenger within 10. And we consistently across the system meet those standards with rare exception. I mean, when you consider 430 airports and roughly 2,400 screening lanes, I’ll have a report maybe three or four reports a day where we might have exceeded those standards.

“Having said that, we do need more staff than what we have today. And we expect the recovery to continue into the fall and into the December holidays. We’ve done some great work in providing incentives … first, you got to keep the great employees we currently have. And so we’ve provided more incentives to keep current employees in TSA. Secondly, and we just did this at Atlanta, we do focused recruiting events. So, we had 600-700 people that showed up for the recruiting event that we held in Atlanta. And what we do there is we do all of the steps in our recruitment process all at one time. So, you can do your computer-based testing, you begin your medical process, and you start to fill out your security forms. This greatly streamlines our ability to bring people on board. The other thing that is critically important, sir, and I appreciate your support of this, is we do have a proposal in the budget from the President’s budget for ‘23 to provide pay equity for TSA. And as you may know, our frontline screening workforce receives 30% less pay than if they worked in any other federal agency. If you went through the standard process of classifying their positions, and then providing their compensation for that, we’re about 30% off. That has a significant impact on our ability to recruit people and to retain folks, so I think that’s one of the most important things, that’s my most important thing as the agency head, to provide responses to questions that members of Congress such as yourself might have, and then hopefully if it’s approved and appropriated, to implement.”

SEN. OSSOFF: “Thank you, Administrator. Will you commit to working with my office and with the ATL leadership, including B” Bheodari, the General Manager at Hartsfield Jackson, to ensure the airport has sufficient staff and drive down wait times?”

ADMIN. PEKOSKE: “Yes, sir. I’ve met with him. I’ve been to Atlanta many times and absolutely commit to do that.”

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