NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- The TSA will encourage travelers at Newark Liberty Airport to enroll in its pre-check program, one of several measures the agency is promoting to ease security lines before the summer travel season.
More than 60,000 passengers went through the airport Thursday and those numbers are rising while TSA staff positions have decreased.
The agency detailed plans to fix this imbalance with the Port Authority now considering hiring a private company. But they say they need passengers to get on board with this new plan too.
Newark Airport is experiencing some of the worst TSA screening delays in the nation, with travelers regularly reporting wait times of at least an hour -- or more.
The TSA attributes the increasing delays to staffing cuts; its frontline staffing budget has been reduced annually since 2012.
But only 9 million of the TSA's projected 25 million travelers have enrolled in its pre-check program, which the agency was hoping would offset the decrease in screening agents.
At Newark Airport Thursday, the TSA set up a working security lane with volunteer passengers to show how much time the pre-check screening can save.
The worsening delays at Newark and the region's other airports over the past several months prompted the Port Authority to threaten to contract with a private company if wait times do not improve.
Newark, Kennedy and LaGuardia airports have experienced "abysmal" TSA security line wait times in 2016, the Port Authority told the TSA, adding "the patience of the flying public has reached a breaking point."
And passenger horror stories have led state lawmakers - like Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez as well as Congressmen Albio Sires and Donald Payne Jr. - to call for action.
Budget cuts and increased security measures have created turbulent TSA lines across the country with frustrated flyers forced to wait in long lines.
Over the next couple of weeks, the TSA will bring in nearly 700 additional staff.
"Over the course of the past several years we reduced our TSA staff by about 5,000 so we're looking to start making up for that as we see more and more travelers," said TSA public affairs manager Lisa Farbstein.
The TSA says passengers can also play a big role in wait times decreasing, from arriving at the airport early to being prepared ahead of time for security screenings.
TSA Preparation Tips for Passengers
--Arrive early. The increase in travel volume has a wide-ranging effect. Consider incorporating additional time in your travel plans for traffic, parking, rental car returns and airline check-in. TSA recommends arriving up to two hours in advance of domestic departures and three hours in advance of international travel.
--Prepare for security when you are packing. Put large liquids, gels, creams, aerosols, into your checked bags such as shampoo, conditioner, suntan lotion, shaving cream, anti-perspirant. If you only have a carry-on bag, make sure all of your liquids follow the 3-1-1 rule outlined below.
--Follow the 3-1-1 liquids rule for your carry-on bag. When packing a carry-on bag, it is important to remember that liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes must be 3.4 ounces or less and all bottles must fit in a single quart size plastic bag and placed in a bin for screening. This includes sun block and tanning sprays. Let the TSA officer know right away if you're traveling with larger quantities of medically-necessary liquid medications so that it can be screened separately.
--Be ready when you enter the checkpoint line: Have an acceptable ID and boarding pass out and ready to hand to the TSA officer. Once you get to the divesting tables, remove large electronics including laptops and the 3-1-1 compliant liquids bag, from carry-on baggage. Consider minimizing items that you wear to the airport such as bulky jewelry, scarves, hair accessories, large belts and other bulky items as these articles are likely to require additional screening. Remove all items from your pockets and put them into one of your carry-on bags so you won't accidentally leave them at the checkpoint when you head to your gate.
--Know what is in your bags. It is very important to make sure that you've got no prohibited items in your luggage. Check TSA's web site feature "When I fly, can I bring my ________?" at www.tsa.gov. Type in an item and find out immediately if you can bring it in your carry-on bag, checked bag, either or neither.
--@AskTSA: Unsure if an item is allowed through the security checkpoint? Issues receiving TSA Pre on your boarding pass? Travelers with questions about transportation security can contact a TSA employee for live assistance 365 days a year via Twitter. Tweet your questions and comments to @AskTSA from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends/holidays.
--TSA Cares: Travelers or families of passengers with disabilities and medical conditions may call the TSA Cares helpline toll free at 1-855-787-2227 with any questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint 72 hours prior to traveling. Injured service members and veterans including individuals associated with a wounded warrior program may contact TSA Cares to help facilitate the screening process.
--Check the bins: Equally important, travelers are reminded to check the bins when collecting all belongings after going through screening and before leaving the checkpoint screening area. Often, travelers leave behind laptops, cameras, phones and loose change.
--The TSA Contact Center is available to answer questions by email and phone at 1-866-289-9673. Staff is available from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends/holidays; and an automated service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Travelers at Newark Airport pushed to enroll in pre-check program
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