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Long DIA security lines: One less PreCheck lane, no way to pre-check wait times

DIA stopped posting security time estimates on its website during COVID. With the the length of the lines lately, just be prepared to wait.

DENVER — Denver International Airport (DIA) sent out a tweet on Sept. 16 letting people know about delays at security.

"We are experiencing busy TSA security lines at DEN," it said.

They tweeted the warning again on Sept. 17, Sept. 18, Sept. 19 and Sept. 20.

Travelers shared their own tweets showing what "busy" meant -- on Sept. 19, for example, pictures and video showed the line extending through hallways, around corners and beyond the baggage claim carousels.

Airport security lines are managed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and not by DIA.

The TSA, like many industries, has suffered from staffing shortages because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over summer, the agency began offering $1,000 as an incentive to hire more people nationwide.

But as employment concerns persist, the number of travelers is approaching 2019 levels, meaning the TSA has to balance the need among security lines. Monday, for instance, the TSA only offered PreCheck, its expedited security process for approved passengers, at the airport's south checkpoint.

"[TSA agents] predict how many PreCheck passengers will be there on a given day/during a certain time to decide how many PreCheck lanes (one or two) need to open," TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers told 9NEWS. "Recently they haven’t had the PreCheck population to warrant opening both sides."

According to Dankers, agents get an hourly breakdown of flights and know how many people have PreCheck. Lines for general passengers usually require more staffing and if the north line was open Monday, as well, it would have taken away resources from the main lines.

Dankers said that 382,000 passengers went through Denver's security checkpoints last week. She said that equals about 95% of pre-pandemic numbers.

Also before COVID, travelers could check calculated security wait times on DIA's website. The airport scrapped that to reduce costs in the pandemic. They hope to bring back that service with a different system after it goes through more testing. DIA expects that to go live by the end of 2021.

DIA is also trying to fill its open jobs throughout the airport, from restaurants to the parking lots.

"Similar to other industries, DEN is experiencing staffing challenges. Which is why we’re hosting a job fair on Sept. 29 from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on the DEN plaza. We have over 1,500 opportunities for job seekers to explore," DIA spokesperson Alex Renteria said.

The airport's two biggest shuttle lots, Mount Elbert and Pikes Peak, closed in May 2020. For 16 months, more than 17,000 parking spaces have sat vacant. The airport is having trouble replacing drivers to restart the shuttle service.

"We want to get our shuttle parking at Denver International Airport open just as badly as our passengers do. Right now, we are dealing with staffing challenges," Renteria said.

The airport needs about 50 full-time shuttle drivers to be operational again. The airport is hosting job fairs and offering incentives to get more drivers behind the wheel, especially before the holiday travel season.

"Our hope is that our shuttle lots will be open before the end of the year but it's very dependent on whether we can get people staffing those bussing positions," Renteria said.

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