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TSA needs to improve its performance to keep lines moving

Travelers in the Buffalo Niagara region can take heart that they do not have to put up with the frustratingly long security checks their fellow fliers have to endure.

The typical 15- to 30-minute, and no more than 45-minute, pause in one’s travel day is nothing compared to the three-hour or longer waits in larger cities.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration announced it will add officers at airports expected to have the highest passenger volumes, according to a statement from Jeh Johnson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also asked Congress to approve additional funds to pay for officers’ overtime and also to meet “critical short-term needs.” It should have happened sooner, to avoid headaches that can only hurt air travel. Training also needs to improve so that security checks proceed as quickly as safety allows.

Security remains critical. There are growing concerns around groups inspired by the Islamic State, following a March 22 attack in which suicide bombers killed 32 people in the Brussels airport and on a rush-hour metro train. The anxiety level among security personnel has been heightened.

The combination of an increase in passengers, tighter budgets, fewer Transportation Security Administration screeners and new checkpoint procedures make for a hair-pulling experience.

Not to worry if you’re leaving Buffalo Niagara International Airport. The return trip is another story, if you have to travel through airports such as in Orlando, Chicago or Newark. Lines snaking out and around corners are becoming increasingly common.

The slowdown has officials concerned going into the summer vacation season. The New York Times reported that more than 220 million passengers are expected to fly during the peak travel months of July and August. Again, Buffalo’s airport is not expected to experience such delays, in part because the Canadian dollar has fallen. That discourages travelers who might otherwise cross the border to take advantage of lower flying costs, although the peak season here is expected in the same two summer months.

Contributing to the short lines in Buffalo, as a spokesman for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority pointed out, the number of seats available to passengers traveling out of Buffalo has been reduced as airlines have consolidated.

Follow the TSA’s advice when flying out of Buffalo and get to the airport 90 minutes ahead of your departure time and much earlier at busier airports. Until the problem is alleviated, plan for it. If nothing else, think of your blood pressure.