As the Memorial Day weekend kicks off a record summer of travel, think about those hourslong waits at the country's biggest airports.
Contemplate the time, in security lines, that cannot be used for business, recreation or visits with family and friends. Then plan your summer flights to begin and end at the Colorado Springs Airport.
As headlines swirl about delays and other headaches at the country's largest airports, including DIA, our city's airport is increasingly known as a hub of sanity amid commotion.
Bloomberg reported Wednesday how recent three-hour TSA waits throughout the country "caused thousands of travelers to miss flights and led to hearings in Congress this week on the agency's woes." Lines have increased as recent TSA staff reductions paralleled a 9 percent increase in air travel. And that was before the summer rush began. Federal transportation officials expect air travel to climb 4 percent above normal this season, to a record of 231.1 million passengers. It all adds up to looming airport nightmares.
U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., introduced legislation to shorten airport waits with a bill title long enough to rival a TSA line. The "Safe Convenient Reliable Efficient Effective Next-Generation Functional and Secure TSA or SCREENFAST Act," breathe, gives the country's 29 largest airports responsibility to resolve security delays. It funds new equipment, including devices to speed baggage inspection, and gives airports more latitude to resolve problems with existing federal funds. If successful, this bill could take months or years to net palpable results.
"My bill addresses TSA's growing security lines and aims to find an innovative solution to streamline the security screening process so that it is more efficient, while also preserving the critical security function that must be incorporated into any legislative fix to TSA's problem," Gardner said, as quoted by Bloomberg.
As the sixth busiest airport in the country, Denver International Airport offers no relief from hourslong waits. But just a hop and skip to the south, travelers can avoid screening marathons in Colorado Springs. The airport's passenger traffic has been rising steadily for five of the past six months, but times spent waiting in lines are famously short.
"This is why some people fly out of Colorado Springs," said a headline this week in CompleteColorado.com, a statewide web portal.
The headline links to a Gazette story about airport plans to make lines even shorter, as Frontier Airlines adds flights. The airport will begin tweeting morning wait times so passengers will know what to expect, and will strive for no waits to exceed 15 minutes.
The increasingly user-friendly nature of our local airport should come as no surprise. It all began back in 2013, when then-Mayor Steve Bach and other city leaders decided the airport should stop getting crushed by DIA. Bach appointed an all-star panel of local business leaders, which included: El Pomar Foundation CEO Bill Hybl; Broadmoor Chairman Steve Bartolin; retired Air Force Gen. Victor Renuart; and University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Chancellor Pamela Shockley-Zalabak.
The panel advised refinancing and other measures to lower overhead, so the airport could afford better prices and improved customer service. The result has been more airlines offering more flights at lower prices.
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