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Long TSA Lines

by Blake 17. May 2016

As the summer season comes around each year, airports become more crowded and security wait times become longer, making travel much more difficult and stressful.  Commercial Medical Escorts moves patients from country to country, but travel around the United States is still very popular.  As families and friends get ready to go on vacation, CME reminds you to be aware of extensive airport lines and to plan accordingly for your travels.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says “a loss of thousands of employees in 2014 that the agency has yet to replace” (CNN) is the cause of the long lines in airports.   The following busiest airports (recorded by total passengers boarded):

1. Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

2. Los Angeles International Airport

3. O'Hare International Airport

4. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

5. John F. Kennedy International Airport

6. Denver International Airport

7. San Francisco International Airport

8. Charlotte Douglas International Airport

9. McCarran International Airport

10. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

At Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, officials are recommending that passengers arrive up to three hours early before departure to guarantee enough time for them to catch a flight.  Security lines tend to stretch through the terminal atrium, and sometimes, through baggage claim.  Wait times at TSA checkpoints reach between half an hour and an hour long, and occasionally longer.  On May 9th, the peak security wait time at Atlanta was sixty-two minutes.

Due to many complaints from travelers and airlines, Atlanta airport officials criticized TSA for the long security lines and blamed the wait on a decrease in the amount of staff.  In fact, problems at TSA stem from negative public and congressional opinion, low employee count, high employee layoff, and investigations of misconduct. TSA administrator Peter Neffenger told Congress that TSA is struggling with a 10 percent attrition rate, meaning that there are about 5000 fewer screening officers on the job today than a few years ago.  Recently, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security promised that executives would be taking immediate action to expand the amount of members in the TSA workforce in order to ensure more efficient security checkpoints.  TSA received an approval of $34 million from Congress to re-allocate funds to increase security officers at checkpoints. Around $26 million will go to overtime and part-time hours, and $8 million will go towards hiring new officers in May 2016, just in time before the busy summer travel months.

 

Travel Tips:

1.     Monday morning and evening and Friday morning and evening are when the majority of business travelers are flying out. To avoid this rush time, if available, book midday flights throughout the week to avoid long lines.

2.     Tuesday and Wednesday are known for being the slowest days of the week in airports.

3.      Arrive at least two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international flights.

4.     Highways are generally busiest either early morning or early evening on the weekdays, so allot your time accordingly.

5.     Enroll in TSA PreCheck.  Approved members go through special lines, do not have to remove shoes, belts, or jackets, and do not have to take laptops and liquids out of bags.

6.     Enroll in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program.  This program makes international travel easier and quicker and provides eligibility for the TSA PreCheck program.

CME will continue to monitor this problem as it severely impacts CME clients, nurses, and travelers.  As summer approaches soon, CME warns about long security lines and hopes for safe and smooth travels.

Travels to India: Through the Eyes of a Medical Escort

by Blake 27. November 2012

As I depart New Delhi Airport on my British Air flight to London, it’s a little bittersweet. Oddly enough I am departing on the exact day my five-year multi-entry visa expires. I have been traveling to India over the past five years as a critical care flight paramedic, bringing patients either back home to India, or from India back to North America.

Over many years I have had the opportunity of transporting patients on Commercial aircraft all around the globe.  My company, Commercial Medical Escorts was started 6 years ago.  About a year into business we had a request to transport a patient from Chicago to Ahmadabad, India. With much excitement I quickly flew to Houston, Texas and obtained a five-year multi-entry visa to India, that was Nov 26th 2007.

As the business grew over the years my presence became needed in the office to oversee operations. During the same time period I also had two amazing daughters (age 4 and 7) with my beautiful wife.  We have since built an amazing team of nurses, and physicians to transport our patients, as well as a great office staff and my frequent flying came to a quick halt. 

Although being home with the family and having full control of the daily operations of my company is priceless and necessary, my love for flying and treating patients remained. I always had that five year multi-entry visa to India in my back pocket, and used it as an excuse to quickly get on an aircraft each time we had a patient transport to or from India! Nowadays it is not so easy to obtain a visa to India, yet alone a five-year visa, so sadly I don’t think I will be returning anytime soon. We now have other nurses with entry visas to India who are fully capable of completing the transports.

As I reflect on my multiple visits to India the memories are priceless and will last forever. India is a country like no other, with culture, and people like no other. I have traveled to cities such as Bombay, New Delhi, Ahmadabad, Hyderabad, Amritsar, Kolkata, among others. Each city visited was a different patient transported; each patient transported was an opportunity to meet new and amazing people. The patient’s and families from India have always been warm, welcoming, and humbled by the services we provided to them.  Because of the welcoming and open hearts of these people, I have traveled to India with a patient and stayed to visit with families of past patient’s I transported.

Having connected with the families has allowed me to see India like it should be seen, through the eyes of the locals. I have been welcomed to a traditional Indian wedding in Ahmadabad with over 300 guests, amazing food, and everyone dressed in their best traditional Indian clothing. One of the family members invited me to visit his local business, which happened to be a huge factory that makes textiles and ships it all over the world. And every patient I transported to India has invited me into their home for a traditional Indian meal.

Unfortunately the country is widely impoverished; and this fact is widely apparent throughout India. Being with the locals I have ventured to many areas of India that most foreigners would not typically go. The slums of India can bring a tear to anyone’s eyes. To see children use the streets they play in as their bathroom is heartbreaking.  Many families in India live with the bare minimum and make due, many times still with a smile on their face, but also many praying and hoping for a better life that is almost impossible to obtain. I have had opportunities to interact with children and parents from the slums who have never seen a foreigner, many just stared, but I also had the chance to play street games with the kids, these also are memories I will never forget.

I will one day renew my visa to India and visit the friends and places I know, but also explore parts of India I haven’t yet seen. Being able to share the experience with my family will be priceless. I leave India with another patient safely delivered, and the opportunity to once again meet another warm and welcoming family.


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