JFK’s Security Lines Are the Slowest in North America

Jul 21, 2018

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Congratulations, New Yorkers! Turns out you had every right to kvetch: New York – JFK officially has the worst security lines in North America.

According to preliminary data compiled by J.D. Power, the California-based market-research company, New York City’s busiest airport is by far the worst  when it comes to TSA lines, with an average wait time of 19.02 minutes compared to the overall average of 15.32 minutes.

Orlando (MCO) came in second, with an average wait time in the TSA line of 18.85 minutes. Following were Toronto Pearson (YYZ), with 18.70 minutes; LAX, with 18.68 minutes; and Montreal-Trudeau (YUL), coming in at 18.06 minutes. J.D. Power collected the data from flyers between September 2017 and May 2018, and expects to complete its annual survey in September 2018.

“It is sort of a ‘victims of their own success situation,'” J.D. Power travel-practice lead Michael Taylor said in an email.

Many airports were built well before the modern age of cheap air travel, and in the more innocent, pre-9/11 days. Today, they’re swamped with more travelers than they were designed to accommodate, and are required to use bulky security equipment.

“There just isn’t the space in most of their terminals to handle the TSA hardware and accommodate the increasing number of passengers,” Taylor said.

The crunch is especially noticeable in a fast-growing airport like Orlando, which sees 44 million flyers annually now but was only built to hold 26 million. MCO’s building a new terminal expected to open in 2021, adding 19 gates and easing much of the congestion. The Canadian airports are hampered by the strict regulations involving people crossing into the US from the Great White North, which requires passengers to go through US passport control as well as the usual screenings.

A spokeswoman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey didn’t respond to requests for comment by publication time.

Customs and Border Protection already monitors how long it takes to process passengers coming off of international flights through passport control at major US airports. Earlier this year, it introduced an app that helps passengers avoid long security lines using estimates crowdsourced from other MyTSA app users. The J.D. Power study is a systematic, third-party look at the TSA wait times for travelers on departing flights.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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