The travel industry is warning that airport security line wait times could stretch to three hours after mandatory funding cuts kick in March 1.
Top congressional aides and the U.S. Travel Association tell Secrets that under the looming budget sequester, an hour will be added to security waits at the nation's largest and busiest airports due to necessary Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Custom and Border Protection furloughs required to meet the funding cuts.
And once travelers pop out of those security lines they will likely face even longer waits since cuts in Federal Aviation Administration staff will result in reduced air traffic control and longer delays.
Customs furloughs will hit especially hard in international passenger areas where check-ins for those returning to or visiting the United States can experience two hour waits already. "Wait times getting back into the country projected at three or more hours," said a travel industry source. A Democratic review of sequester cuts added, "At the busiest airports, the increase in peak airport wait times would regularly reach three or more hours. These delays would dramatically impact air travel, potentially causing thousands of missed passenger connections daily, and negatively impact our economy."
"The indiscriminate sequester cuts threaten to derail the travel-led recovery," warned Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association. "There is absolutely no excuse for travelers in one of the world's most advanced nations to suffer through a travel process that wastes their precious time and resources," he said.
To press Congress to restore funding, the travel association said it is creating a mobile messaging campaign to let delayed travelers text complaints to their House and Senate representatives.
"It is time for Washington to solve problems rather than create potentially devastating new crises. The 14.4 million Americans whose jobs depend on travel, the two million Americans who fly each day and the millions more who take to the roads and rails to drive the American economy are counting on our elected officials to deliver results that keep our nation competitive and attractive to travelers around the globe," said Dow.