Mar 29, 2022 - News

"All hands on deck": Fuel shortages and long TSA waits at Austin airport

Screenshot via @joeydillon on Twitter.

Abandoned rental cars, a TSA line that queued around the airport, fuel shortages and angry tweets from travelers who missed their flights.

Driving the news: Welcome to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport's no good, very bad two days.

State of play: Staffing shortages collided with a very busy time for travel as spring breakers, WGC-Dell Match Play, Texas Relays and NASCAR attendees brought unusually large crowds to the airport.

  • Travelers shared photos and videos of a chaotic Sunday and Monday morning, leading TSA to have "all hands on deck" to support airport operations.
  • The wait times for security pushed travelers into lines that snaked outside on Sunday. By Monday morning, others reported abandoning their rental cars on the road.

"Never seen anything like this," one tweeter shared, along with a photo of cars stopped on the road leading into the airport. "Abandoned rental cars this far from drop off at Austin airport at 6:30 am. TSA lines are 3k deep, wrapped outside. Only reason we're making flight is TSA Precheck. Ridiculous."

Screenshot via @kwnagel/Twitter

Another video shared to Twitter showed a line stretching outside: "TSA line at Austin Airport wrapping around the whole building."

And, by Monday afternoon, it somehow got worse. Airport officials issued a fuel shortage alert due to the high volume of flights scheduled.

  • The alert asks arriving flights to land with extra fuel in case there isn't enough in Austin.

What they're saying: "It's a busy day at AUS," airport officials observed Monday.

  • At least 1,600 more┬ápassengers were flying out before 8am than normal.
  • And the rental car debacle was caused by staff instructing customers to leave vehicles with keys inside after one car stalled at the drop-off curb.
  • "This caused other passengers with rental cars to follow suit, and leave their rental cars alongside the curb," Haynes said. "Once airport staff was alerted to this, we got in touch with the rental car company to request additional staff be dispatched to the rental car facility to move the vehicles from the curb."

TSA spokesperson Patricia Mancha said the NASCAR and PGA events brought a "larger than usual number of travelers." Plus, airlines have added new flights, and the number of travelers nationwide has nearly doubled from one year ago.

  • "TSA has all hands on deck to support operations," Mancha told Axios on Monday. "Additional staff has been brought in from other airports to provide temporary support."

On Sunday, TSA officers screened more than 2.2 million passengers in the country's southwest region, which includes airports in Texas, Arkansas, Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

  • TSA did not provide specific figures for the Austin airport, but Mancha confirmed that all checkpoints are open and fully staffed.

By noon Monday, every security checkpoint showed waits of more than 30 minutes, per the airport's tracker.

If you go: Give yourself more than two hours to get through security, and check the airport's tracker well before you walk out the door.

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