South Florida airports aren’t always immune from delays at security checkpoints, but Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International — both among the nation’s busiest — haven’t experienced the epic delays reported in other cities.
The lines at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints at FLL and MIA have averaged a 20-minutes or less wait time the past few months, said TSA spokesman Sari Koshetz.
The most recent TSA statistics on wait times for both airports belie the stories of hours-long waits over the weekend and early this week at other airports around the nation.
On the same day horror stories were coming out of airports in Chicago and Atlanta, 94.5 percent of Miami passengers waited in line less than 20 minutes, according to the TSA. Miami International, the nation’s 12th-busiest airport, handled 62,000 passengers Sunday and the longest wait time was 45 minutes — and that was caused by a disruptive passenger.
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Things got better Monday when 98.8 percent of the 58,000 passengers who streamed through security waited less than 20 minutes.
The story is similar if not better in Broward. According to the TSA data, 95 percent of Fort Lauderdale passengers have gone through security in 20 minutes or less the past few months, and 20 percent of those have made it through in less than 10 minutes.
The longest wait at Fort Lauderdale during the spring break season was 38 minutes.
“We’re very proud of our local officers and the efficiency they provide every day to keep you safe,” Koshetz said Tuesday.
She said “architecture” and “real estate” at South Florida’s airports have played a role in more efficient passenger traffic through security.
Despite these numbers, Koshetz said passengers should still get to the airport two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight during the current peak.
“The lines have been visibly longer since December,” MIA spokesman Greg Chin said.
Checkpoints at MIA were moving on Tuesday with no significant lines.
That’s in contrast to the scenarios at other airports across the country over the weekend and Monday.
Lines leading to multi-hour wait times and missed flights have been reported in major hubs including Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, Newark and Dallas. Passengers traveling through Chicago’s O’Hare Airport were told to arrive three hours before their domestic flights.
O’Hare, the nation’s second-busiest airport, looked like a homeless shelter Sunday evening when American Airlines rolled out cots for 450 of its passengers because they missed their flights after being stuck in long lines.
But at MIA, the story of blocks-long lines was merely a tall tale to one passenger.
“I heard the stories and came early, but as you can see, I’m about to get in line and there really isn’t one,” Wilmero Acosta said just outside the Concourse E, D checkpoint. “The sky is not falling. Not in Miami, anyway.”
Alex Lagos, who flew from Newark to Miami for a quick business trip, said he stood in line at Newark for two hours on Monday so the tie-ups were familiar.
“It was bad coming down here,” he said, “but I’m going back now, and this is a welcome sight. In fact, I got a couple of hours to burn because I came to the airport prepared for the worst. This is great.”
Chin said MIA has made one of its checkpoints exclusively for pre-checked passengers. Those passengers receive expedited screening either as members of the TSA Pre-Check program or another specific trusted traveler group.
The airport has also been promised more TSA agents. And Chin said if that doesn’t keep the lines moving, there is another solution.
“There’s always the possibility of outsourcing,” Chin said. “We may consider hiring an outside private firm. We haven’t had to do that yet.”