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

  • The TSA is facing a staffing crunch ahead of an expected surge in summer travel.
  • The agency is asking office workers to volunteer at airports for 45-day stints, The Washington Post reports.
  • The agency said it is “well-positioned” for the spike in air travel.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

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

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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.

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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.

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A TSA spokesperson told Insider that it’s normal for the agency to ramp up hiring ahead of the busy summer season and offer various incentives as part of that effort.

“The Transportation Security Administration is well-positioned to meet rising traveler volumes. As in years before, the agency began a concerted recruitment effort this past winter in anticipation of increasing volumes and is on pace with established benchmarks to meet hiring goals. The agency continues to leverage established, creative recruitment strategies to meet personnel needs, including nationwide recruitment incentives and targeted retention incentives in strategic markets,” the spokesperson said.

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 [email protected]

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