As long as the government shutdown continues, the only airport I want to connect in is San Francisco.
We’re 25 days into a government shutdown and no resolution is in sight. One result has been long security lines at U.S. airports. Transportation Security Administration workers are considered essential personnel and therefore are obligated to report to work even though they are not currently being paid. This has led many to call in sick, though the problem is not as widespread as the mainstream media paints it to be.
Even so, when I see 60+ minute waits for security in Atlanta, as was the case last weekend, I will proactively adjust my travel plans to limit unnecessary stress by connecting at the wrong airport.
Last Saturday I flew home from Europe and there was only one U.S. airport I was willing to connect in: San Francisco. Why? SFO does not have TSA agents. Instead, SFO uses Covenant Aviation Security (CAS), a private firm that administers security in coordination with the TSA on behalf of the airport. I figured since the CAS was not affected by the shutdown, a connection in SFO would be less painful than other places.
Sure enough, I had no trouble connecting from Frankfurt to Burbank at SFO. In fact, the security checkpoints were practically empty at 2:00PM. I had no wait in the PreCheck line or while having my bags screened. Looking around, it appeared that no one had a wait on this sunny Saturday afternoon.
Again, don’t succumb to the hysteria that you’ll be stuck for hours in line and miss your flight thanks to the government shutdown. Even so, there is no reason to take unnecessary chances, as we’ve seen a handful of airports overburdened by insufficient TSA manpower. Until the shutdown is over, SFO seems like the safest place to travel through. If you have a choice, choose SFO. Otherwise, you’ll still probably be fine.
Yes, SFO uses a private contractor, but depending on how that contract is structured, and how much cash Covenant has on-hand will depend on whether and how long their employees working as TSOs are getting paid. At some point, Covenant invoices back to TSA aren’t going to get paid, and eventually that may trickle down to employees (if it hasn’t already).
Brett, you have no idea how government contracts work; Covenant will get paid no matter what because once the contract is signed, money is already set aside.
I really think the security line issue is isolated to a few airports, at least for now. DFW was normal last Friday (<5 mins for PreCheck, max 15-20 for regular lines, though most shorter than that). I didn't have to re-clear at LAX, but peeking outside at T5 and T7, those lines looked pretty typical as well. I was tempted to show up at 3:30 am for my 6 am flight based on some of the news stories, but I'm glad I didn't give in to the hysteria.
Now, the longer this drags on, I wouldn't be surprised to see problems worsen and spread. I can only imagine the average TSA agent can only work without pay for so long without saying "screw it" and quitting to find another job. (That being said, I'd still never voluntarily choose to connect through SFO, given the chronically horrible weather/ATC delays.)
You were lucky on Saturday as we had blue skies in the Bay Area – I also flew out from SFO on Saturday. Try making that same connection today with 3.5 hour arrival delays and rain.
Due to WEATHER / WIND, there is a Traffic Management Program in effect for traffic arriving San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, CA (SFO). This is causing some arriving flights to be delayed an average of 3 hours and 35 minutes.
Some may conclude that private is better than government. I make no such conclusion.
The shutdown is a made up thing in many ways. It’s made up because it is guaranteed that employees will be paid. So, why not make them go to work instead of staying home? If they are going to be paid, why not pay them now?
Also made up because both Trump and Pelosi are being stubborn. Compromise is easy. Just less Wall funding and add some spending for Pelosi. If one side is compromising and the other doesn’t then you can see who is bad.
I agree with you that the news has sensationalized things a little. I flew from Paris to ORD on Monday and had no issue; TSA’s lines were also not an issue for re-entry to catch my connecting flight.
HNL, SEA, PDX, and DFW seemed normal enough to me; I visited each of those last week, DFW and HNL this past weekend, SEA and PDX earlier in last week.
There are several airports that use private security. I fly out of MCI, so it’s not affected by the shutdown.
The bigger problem is the fact we made a big mistake when we nationalized airport security after 9/11.
Kansas City and Orlando (and a handful of other smaller airports) also use private security. Perhaps the government shutdown will prod some of the other majors to fight to replace TSA with private companies as a hedge against future shutdowns. Or maybe this is just a passive way to shrink government employment…
But unless I am mistaken, every major hub except SFO is TSA, correct?
no, somewhere there’s a list of non-tsa airports.
Why do you care if just connecting? Connected in ATL three times since shutdown with no issues. Off one plane, onto the next. Or are you referring to international arrivals specifically, in which case you may need to clear customs and re-enter through a security point (though not necessarily)
certainly for domestic connections there is no problem. I was thinking inbound int’l U.S. connections.
Yeah I spent 5 hours at LAX today waiting to board my 55 min flight to SFO, delays caused by WIND. This happens often. To me, this is a huge reason to avoid SFO, especially at this time of year. Incidentally, the security lines at LAX were very short and appeared to be fully staffed. Not that I was short on time or anything…
It’d be nice if Schiphol did the same. Their x ray lines must be the most efficient on the planet with a nice physical separation between me and the passenger behind me. But then head upstairs to the passport control and they have two guys process lines of 100 passengers deep. It’d also be nice at LAX — I wonder why they don’t privatize if it means a better experience for the passengers.
Matthew, I’m a fellow Angeleno and am wondering if there was a special reason to fly via SFO to Burbank as opposed to directly to LAX. Burbank is a cute airport but only offers domestic destinations and rarely a better price than LAX.
BUR is 15 minutes from home versus 30-40 from LA. I’ll take the connection for the ease of arriving/departing at BUR.
That’s just one part of the equation in transferring, though: last week when I flew into SFO, the lines for passport control were unbelievably long — I’m assuming border agents are not privitized? If it weren’t for Global Entry I definitely would’ve missed my connection at SFO, TSA or otherwise.