Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told interviewers at a POLITICO event Monday that the onset of sequestration made for a rough weekend at airport security checkpoints nationwide.
Napolitano told interviewers at a breakfast celebrating the anniversary of the DHS that security lines at airport Transportation Security Administration checkpoints were “150 to 200 percent as long as we would normally expect” over the first weekend of sequestration.
“Now that we are having to reduce or eliminate basically overtime both for TSA and for customs; now that we have instituted a hiring freeze… we will begin today sending out furlough notices,” she said. “We are already seeing the effects at some of the ports of entry; some of the big airports, for example. Some of them had very long lines this weekend.”
The off-camera interviewer cut in quickly: “Specifically where?”
“I wanna say O’Hare; I wanna say LAX; ahm, I want to say Atlanta but I’d have to check. The New York airports got through OK, but that is gonna be temporary, so we will see these effects cascade over the next week.”
The Daily Telegraph got hold of Napolitano’s comments and called security chiefs at the airports she mentioned.
A Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) spokesman who worked through the weekend said there hadn’t been “any slowdowns at all.”
The director of media relations at Chicago’s O’Hare said there had been “no unusual delays or cancellations” and that the weekend’s lines had been “normal.”
The spokesman for Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta went into refutation overkill, saying: “There have been no abnormally long lines at the security checkpoint nor unusual aircraft delays at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as a result of sequestration.”
The Telegraph also checked with travel industry representatives to see if anecdotes from actual travelers would uncover information the airport representatives had overlooked. They got the same story.
“I can only tell you what we’ve heard from our members, which is they have not seen any abnormal delays,” said a spokeswoman for airline industry trade group Airlines for America.
“We’re on a mailing list for LAX that tells us whether there are any security delays and we have meet-and-greet people at the airport who tell us if there are any delays and at the moment we haven’t heard anything,” offered a Los Angeles-based travel agent.