The TSA can’t hire enough agents to keep up with the summer travel boom, report says

A TSA officer wears a mask at Logan International Airport in Boston in March 2020.
A TSA officer wears a mask at Logan International Airport in Boston in March 2020.

As travelers return to the skies in large numbers, the Transportation Security Administration is facing a staffing crunch.

Ahead of an anticipated burst in air travel this summer, the agency is taking extreme measures to ensure that airports across the country are properly staffed up with agents, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

In a May 30 memo viewed by the Post, the TSA’s acting administrator, Darby LaJoye, asked the agency’s office employees to volunteer to work airport checkpoints. Volunteers would help out with lines and administrative work, but would not be able to screen passengers, the memo said. The assignments would last 45 days.

“With this increase in volume, TSA must maintain operational readiness and ensure that the screening workforce is available to perform screening functions,” LaJoye wrote in the memo, according to the Post.

According to internal documents obtained by the Post, the TSA identified 235 airports that were short-staffed by at least 5%. Five of the country’s largest hubs had 10% fewer agents than needed. In all, the agency had a 2,500-officer gap as of the beginning of June.

The TSA previously said it aims to hire 6,000 employees by the end of the summer, and has already recruited about half that number in recent months, the report said. In an effort to stretch its existing human resources, the agency has shifted some part-time employees to full-time, increased overtime hours, and required some agents to work extra days each week, the Post reported. At airports that are particularly short on staff, the TSA is offering monthly bonuses of $500.

Read more: An exec who spent 19 years building Amazon’s supply chain just raised $8 million for a startup helping retailers match Prime’s delivery speed

The TSA did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment, but told the Post it is “well-positioned to meet rising traveler volumes this summer.”

The number of travelers passing through TSA checkpoints each day has steadily risen in recent months as vaccines have become more available and the pandemic has receded across much of the country.

The TSA is screening at least a million more travelers per day than it did at this time in 2020, but passenger volumes are still significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels.

Are you a TSA or airline employee with a story to share? Contact this reporter at tlevin@insider.com.

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Americans are returning to the skies in record numbers, with more than 1.8 million people passing through TSA checkpoints for the first time since the pandemic began

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  • TSA screened more than 1.8 million people on Sunday.
  • It was the most travelers to pass through security checkpoints since the pandemic hit last spring.
  • TSA still requires all travelers to wear a face mask when traveling on public transportation.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Transportation Security Administration screened 1,850,531 people at airport security checkpoints on Sunday, marking a new record high number of air travelers since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

The previous high was on March 12, when more than 1.3 million people were screened, a number not seen since a year earlier.

Although the number of people traveling has been rising and falling, according to TSA checkpoint data, there are many indicators that people are preparing to travel again as vaccine rollout continues and COVID-19 restrictions become less strict around the country.

Although CDC lifted mask mandates for fully vaccinated people last week, travelers are still required to wear masks on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation. Lisa Farbstein, a spokesperson for TSA, said the agency also recommends that all passengers bring an extra mask with them when traveling, as well as hand sanitizer.

After the CDC updated mask guidelines, private businesses, including large retailers like Walmart, Home Depot, Target, and more, are dropping mask mandates for fully vaccinated customers unless local laws are still requiring the face coverings.

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TSA has extended its face-mask requirement for travelers on planes, buses, and trains until September 13

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A traveler at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

  • The TSA on Friday extended its mask mandate until September 13.
  • Masks “remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic,” said Darby LaJoye, a TSA official.
  • First-time violations will still carry $250 fines.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The TSA on Friday extended its requirement that travelers wear masks in airports and on commercial flights until September 13.

“The federal mask requirement throughout the transportation system seeks to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,” said Darby LaJoye, a senior official performing the duties of the TSA Administrator, in a statement.

The mandate had been set to expire on May 11. It requires most travelers over the age of two to wear masks aboard flights, trains, or buses. It includes time spent in transit hubs, train stations, and airports.

The extension came as US and state officials inched toward wider reopenings, as more people were fully vaccinated. President Joe Biden hit and raised his administration’s goal of issuing 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days in office. He raised it to 200 million shots, a goal he also hit.

Biden still asked Americans to wear masks during his first 100 days. A mask mandate for flyers was one of his first executive orders.

The TSA on Friday said wearing masks while travelling was still effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

LaJoye said: “Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic.”

First-time violations will still carry fines of $250, which then jump as high as $1,500 for repeat offenders, the TSA said.

Airlines last fall created their own “no-fly” lists. By January, they had banned about 2,500 passengers from flying for not wearing masks.

Travelers who have refused to wear masks have been kicked off flights, sometimes accompanied by cheers from other passengers. Last month, Alaska Airlines said it banned a GOP state senator in Alaska after she refused to comply with mask requirements.

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For 10 days in a row, more than 1 million people have flown from US airports, despite the CDC urging people not to travel

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Travelers arrive for flights at O’Hare international Airport on March 16, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois.

  • Americans are returning to the skies as airlines grow increasingly optimistic about the future of travel.
  • The TSA screened nearly 1.47 million passengers on Friday, the most in more than a year.
  • The CDC is still urging people to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The number of flyers departing from US airports has topped 1 million for 10 days in a row – even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging people to avoid traveling.

The US Transport Security Administration (TSA) said Sunday it has screened more than 1 million passengers at US airports every day since March 11. It screened around 13 million passengers over the 10-day period, it said.

Though travel is allowed, current CDC guidance says people should “delay travel and stay home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, even if you are vaccinated.”

Read more: 3 reasons to be optimistic about this summer, according to 18 doctors and scientists

For the first time during the pandemic, air travel is higher than it was at the same time a year ago. On Saturday, the most recent day data is available for, the TSA screened nearly 1.37 million passengers – more than double the number it screened on the same day in 2020.

US air travel peaked on Friday, when the TSA screened close to 1.47 million passengers, the most in more than a year.

CNN first reported the news.

CDC travel guidance: masks, tests, and vaccines

If people have to travel, the CDC urges them to get tested both before and after flying, and quarantine at their destination, even if they test negative. Passengers must wear face masks on all flights, following an executive order from Biden, with few exemptions, and the CDC says they should get a COVID-19 vaccine, if possible.

All international arrivals are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board a flight to the US.

Some countries are mulling vaccine passports to facilitate international travel. The European Commission proposed a vaccine passport for EU citizens Wednesday, which would vouch for vaccination, COVID-19 test results, and whether the person has recovered from COVID-19. Similar passports are in the works in China and the UAE.

Public-health experts told Insider they felt unusually optimistic about this summer and the pandemic.

In an opinion piece, Insider reporters Andrea Michelson and Hilary Brueck said authorities should stop telling people not to travel and instead teach them how to do it safely.

Fares hit record lows and passenger confidence grows

Airfares are hitting record lows as airlines try to lure flyers back.

Passengers are also growing increasingly confident about flying as the vaccine rollout ramps up across the US. President Joe Bidens has eyed May 1 as the day all US adults will become eligible for the shot.

Airlines have been preparing for passengers to return to the skies. JetBlue Airways reportedly asked flight attendants who took a leave of absence to come back early for a “busy summer season,” and also lifted COVID-19 safety measures so it could fit more passengers on each flight. It stopped blocking middle seats in October, and opened flights to be filled to capacity in January.

But others are keeping restrictions: Delta, for example, is continuing to block middle seats through April.

“The move is undoubtedly costing the country’s second-largest airline millions in lost revenue over spring break but helps solidify Delta’s image as a safety-minded airline long after the pandemic ends, which may help it attract more travelers in the long run,” Insider’s Thomas Pallini reported.

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TSA ‘significantly increased’ security at DC airports ahead of Inauguration Day

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Transportation Security Administration agents process passengers at the south security checkpoint at Denver International Airport in Denver.

  • The Transportation Security Administration has ‘significantly increased’ security at DC airports ahead of Inauguration Day. 
  • Following the attacks at the Capitol building two weeks ago, TSA is processing hundreds of names with law enforcement agencies for a thorough risk assessment, according to a statement published Friday.
  • Similar to previous inaugurations, screening officers will be deployed to assist the Secret Service by screening individuals along the parade route and those authorized to attend the Inauguration in-person.
  • But TSA Media Relations manager Robert Langston told Insider that while the agency has a traditional role in security related to presidential inaugurations, “this year may be different in that there is still a pandemic and a different threat environment.”

  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Transportation Security Administration has ‘significantly increased’ security at DC airports ahead of Inauguration Day, the agency announced in a statement Friday. 

Following the attacks at the Capitol building on Jan. 6, TSA is processing hundreds of names with law enforcement agencies for a thorough risk assessment.

“Our intelligence and vetting professionals are working diligently around the clock to ensure those who may pose a threat to our aviation sector undergo enhanced screening or are prevented from boarding an aircraft,” the statement said.

Read more: Biden’s inauguration is raising tens of millions of dollars but won’t say how it’s spending the money

As in previous inaugurations, TSA officers will be deployed to assist the Secret Service by screening individuals along the parade route and those authorized to attend the Inauguration in-person. Beyond the Inauguration grounds, TSA has implemented additional layers of security at all three Washington, DC-area airports, according to the TSA statement.

Those security layers include more law enforcement and explosives detection canine teams, random gate screening, increased number of Federal Air Marshals on certain flights, and additional Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams to provide greater security presence at certain rail transportation hubs.

While the US Secret Service has primary responsibility for the coordination of security planning and implementation, TSA will play a key role in supporting those efforts.

TSA Media Relations manager Robert Langston told Insider that the agency has a traditional role in security related to presidential inaugurations, but this year is different. 

“This year may be different in that there is still a pandemic and a different threat environment,” Langston said. “TSA maintains a security posture that is based on a risk- and intelligence-based assessment and contains multiple layers of seen and unseen methods.”

Federal officials are investigating people who took part in the riot at the U.S. Capitol to determine whether they should be barred from traveling on airlines.

A spokeperson for American Airlines told Insider they are working closely with local law enforcement and airport authority partners to “ensure the safety of our customers and team members on the ground and in the air.”

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