Report critical of TSA lines, customer service at OIA

GOAA chairman: "It's unacceptable"

ORLANDO, Fla. – The latest TSA Services Review revealed wait times as high as 40 minutes at Orlando International Airport security checkpoints during some peak times over the past few months.

In April, 35 percent of passengers surveyed about their wait times were satisfied, down from 47 percent in September 2015. Customer dissatisfaction rose from 22 percent in September to 33 percent in April.

"It was something unacceptable from a customer service standpoint," said Greater Orlando Aviation Authority board chairman Frank Kruppenbacher.

News 6 exclusively obtained the review, which was presented by Orlando International Airport Director Phil Brown at this month's Greater Orlando Aviation Authority board meeting.

The independent quarterly review focuses on Transportation Security Administration wait times and customer satisfaction.

"I would expect lines when you are looking to protect the security of people," said Kruppenbacher.

"You can't rush security. But what you can do is have a customer service attitude. I hear stories of what I would call less-than-acceptable customer service, about how they're spoken to, what they're told, what they're not told."
Kruppenbacher said if the TSA does not improve wait times and satisfaction, he will consider privatizing airport security.

"Our job as a board is to protect the customer service experience. We're a $32 billion economic engine for Central Florida," said Kruppenbacher.

TSA Federal Security Director Jerry Henderson, at OIA, said the airport is fully staffed under the levels allowed by Congress.

"I can tell you, anytime people have to wait longer than 15 minutes you're going to see that [customer satisfaction] go down," said Henderson.

"Part of it, too, is people don't like going through the security process. But it's what we have to do. If you look around the world, there have been 3 major attacks in less than 6 months."

Henderson said during peak times, all lanes are open. He's added explosives-sniffing dogs to pre-clear some passengers and move them along. But he said security is always more important than satisfaction.

"First and foremost, we're concerned about security and making sure we get people through safely,and we do worry about customer service," said Henderson. "And we can do both. We try very hard to do that. I feel like the worst form of customer service would be to let a plane full of people get blown out of the sky coming out of this airport. That's what I really worry about."

OIA public affairs director Carolyn Fennell said the airport has hired 27 employees to help passengers prepare for security checkpoints and guide them through the cues so TSA staffers can focus on screening.
In an email, Fennell listed other "initiatives for efficient, customer-focused, passenger security screening":

• GOAA is actively managing the queues in front of both checkpoints
• GOAA has reconfigured the areas in front of the checkpoints to better organize entry to screening checkpoints
• GOAA personnel, including contract Ambassadors, are active at the checkpoints performing non-security functions (i.e. assisting passengers with divesting of metal objects, water, weapons and providing information about identification and documents needed for expedited screening along with moving of divesting bins)
• GOAA added contract personnel and canine teams in the baggage search rooms to assist the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) during peak periods
• GOAA has started the process to introduce privately staffed and operated employee-only security checkpoint lanes to facilitate more passenger throughput for regular security checkpoint operations, freeing up TSA personnel for more direct expedited customer service
• GOAA meets with TSA officials on a daily basis to review and anticipate peak travel times and assign personnel accordingly
• GOAA has invested in software to help analyze checkpoint wait times to better anticipate and respond to fluctuations in traffic patterns
• GOAA continuously monitors various social media platforms to identify any positive or negative trends for real-time public response to checkpoint activities
• GOAA has collaborated with TSA to redesign checkpoint signage to better inform travelers of steps in the screening process
• GOAA has initiated customer-friendly terminal entertainment to help reduce stress for travelers prior to entering the security checkpoints

Still, Henderson said, especially over the summer, there will be long lines at times.

"There are times we will exceed the capacity of this airport to get through security," said Henderson. "Even with all lanes open, and even with K9s, we're still going to have some waits just because you can't get people through the process. We're fully staffed during those times."

Henderson suggested applying for the TSA Pre-Check program:

Pre-Check costs $85 and is good for 5 years. You'll need to bring your passport to a TSA Pre-Check office (one is located on the A-side of OIA across from Suntrust Bank) and sit with a screener to answer several questions and give personal information, including fingerprints. Appointments made online get priority over walk-ins but at OIA the first available appointment wasn't until July 15.

Those who have been approved for Pre-Check will still be screened but Henderson said the wait time is never more than 5 minutes. Parents can take children 12 and under through Pre-Check.

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.