Tourism

Long security lines slowing access at Myrtle Beach airport

Long security lines are being experienced at airports nationwide, but added staff cuts locally have Myrtle Beach officials advising passengers to arrive two hours early for flights.
Long security lines are being experienced at airports nationwide, but added staff cuts locally have Myrtle Beach officials advising passengers to arrive two hours early for flights. AP

Passengers departing from Myrtle Beach International Airport are being urged to arrive two hours before their flight leaves because of longer than usual lines at TSA screening checkpoints.

The delays passing through security started last weekend, and with the summer tourism season approaching airport officials say passengers should expect it to continue throughout the season.

“Lines are continuously getting longer and longer,” said Kirk Lovell, assistant director of Horry County Airports. “It’s a recipe for disaster showing up 45 minutes before your flight departs. That’s a guarantee you will miss your flight.”

It’s a recipe for disaster showing up 45 minutes before your flight departs.

Kirk Lovell, assistant director, Horry County Airports

The long lines are caused by TSA staff cutbacks in Myrtle Beach and new screening procedures nationwide.

Although two new full-time screeners are expected to begin work here in July, the federal agency will not be sending additional seasonal screeners that have been used in previous years to clear passengers for travel.

“It’s not nearly enough,” Lovell said of the expected staffing level this summer.

Although four screening lanes are available at the airport, only two lanes are typically staffed and three lanes when demand is high.

“It makes no sense to me to have four lines, but only two lines running and people have to wait for hours — that would tick me off,” said Horry County Councilman Johnny Vaught.

Vaught and Councilman Gary Loftus pressed airport staff about the screening delays Monday during a Transportation Committee meeting, and were told that delays nationwide began during the November holidays due to new screening procedures that take twice as long.

But those delays didn’t hit Myrtle Beach until last week, when airlines increased the number of flights for the spring season. The airport saw 68,000 passengers in April, and expects 130,000 in July.

“They say it’s the same all over the country,” Loftus said of long TSA lines. “But that doesn’t make it right.”

Audrey Hudson: 843-444-1765, @AudreyHudson

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