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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The TSA has a new black eye after a huge baggage mix-up in which thousands of bags could not be screened at a Phoenix airport because of a computer glitch.
Checked bags were everywhere but where they were supposed to be — even filling what’s normally the cell phone waiting area. More than 3,000 travelers missed their flights out of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport Thursday due to an unprecedented server failure that crippled the TSA. It prevented officers from using machines to screen the luggage.
“It’s very stressful because I hope that everything that I packed is still in there after people have hand checked it, number one, and that it gets there on time,” said airline passenger Mindy McLarren.
Hundreds of the bags were loaded into trucks headed for surrounding airports to be screened. It could take days to get them to their destinations.
Across the country, it’s growing long, slow lines at TSA checkpoints that are frustrating flyers and now complaints are coming from Congress too.
“It’s just a huge failing government program,” said Rep. John Mica (R-FL).
At a hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday, house lawmakers blasted the TSA.
“What I’m hoping to do is build back a sufficient staff to meet the peak staffing that we need. We currently cannot staff effectively across the system to the peak volume periods,” said TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger.
Neffenger took over the TSA last June just weeks after an internal investigation revealed airport screeners failed 95 percent of tests to detect fake explosives and weapons.
The TSA has refocused on screening and opened a new centralized academy in Georgia earlier this year to help improve training.
The Department Of Homeland Security’s inspector general is planning new tests of TSA security checkpoints this summer.
“We have developed a 10-point plan that will keep passengers moving and most importantly keep them safe,” said Jeh Johnson with the Department of Homeland Security.
The plan includes hiring more than 700 new TSA officers, using additional K9 teams to screen passengers and encouraging more people to sign up for TSA precheck which allows passengers to move through security faster.
Homeland security officials also say they’re working with airlines to reduce the number of carry-on bags, that passengers bring through security to avoid baggage fees. TSA officials said they’re doing as good a job as they can with less funding from Congress.
“I ask you to thank the uniformed officers of the TSA. They are doing a challenging job which is to protect you,” said Neffenger.
The TSA said baggage screening systems at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport are operational, though tests continue. The agency says delayed bags from Thursday have been screened.
TSA told CBS4 News that the vast majority of travelers at the major airports in South Florida – FLL and MIA – get through security in less than 20 minutes.
TSA said they expect up to a 10 percent increase of travelers this summer at the major South Florida airports. TSA suggests getting to the airport two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight.