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Geek Data – 11 Slowest Big-City Airport Security Lines

November 27, 2007 | Posted in: Travel Tips

Sorry, New Orleans you won the top spot on this list. Yes, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport had the longest security lines of the top-40 busiest U.S. airports.

See how we figured this out, and view the rest of the 11-slowest security lines, by clicking “more.”

Update: Wanted to say thanks for all the response to this post. I also wanted to clear up why we chose Monday (2:00pm – 6:00pm) the idea was to pick a time that was relatively busy, but by no means the busiest time of the week. I am going to follow up this post (see it here) with a look at the TSA’s data for Fridays during the same time period which is a much busier time window. Maybe we’ll see some longer waits at airports that didn’t make the initial list. TSA provides the data, we are just interpreting it across a wide range of airports.

Here’s how we did this: first, we looked at data for the top-40 busiest U.S. airports, from Oct. 30 through Nov. 27, data courtesy of the TSA (Transportation Security Administration). We focused on the maximum wait-in-security-line times on Mondays during the hours of 2pm to 6pm. Again, sometimes the waits were shorter; but we decided to show you the longest you might have to wait (as always, your experience may differ).


Here’s where you can expect the longest security-line waits:

1. New Orleans – 40 minutes (Checkpoint MSYC)
2. Newark – 35 minutes (Terminal B/3)
3. DFW (Dallas/Ft. Worth) – 34 minutes (E7)
4. JFK (New York) – 29 minutes (3 pax ser)
5. LAX (Los Angeles) – 28 minutes (Terminal 4)
6. (tie) Cleveland – 27 minutes (C/D Concourse)
7. (tie) Miami – 27 minutes (Terminals D & H)
8. (tie) Oakland – 27 minutes (Terminal 2)
9. Indianapolis – 26 minutes (A Concourse)
10. (tie) Atlanta – 25 minutes (Main)
11. (tie) Philadelphia – 25 minutes (D)

17 Responses to “Geek Data – 11 Slowest Big-City Airport Security Lines”

  1. Wilson says:

    and “more” (See how we figured this out, and view the rest of the 11-slowest security lines, by clicking more.) is . . .

  2. TJ says:

    Whoever posted this never left Vegas on a Sunday.

  3. Arubalisa says:

    Geesh! No wonder I cannot figure out how many zillions of hours before my flight our family should arrive at ATL on December 22 to face the lines!

  4. Larry Adams says:

    Don’t know how San Francisco (SFO) missed this list. I personally have had to wait over an hour at times. Maybe I was just lucky.

  5. enl says:

    My husband and I have done a lot of traveling this year and have figured out that if you come prepared life is allways eaisier on these lines. Like slip on and off shoes. No belt buckles, little to no jewelry. Staff needs our help too.

  6. john indorf says:

    Those who wonder how their airports missed the list need only look at where the data originated and then they will understand why the list is suspect.

  7. Todd says:

    I’ll second the idea of leaving Vegas on a Sunday! To their advantage though, the long lines moved fast.

  8. Melinda says:

    This is a strange way to compare security line times. I travel routinely between Philadelphia and New Orleans and only once have I seen a long line in the N.O. airport. Usually it’s just 0-5 people between me and the agent checking IDs. I have even had times when there was no one else in line at all and I went straight on through the metal detector.
    Philadelphia, however, always has a line, which seems to vary in length unpredictably: sometimes you can walk right up to the ID-checkers and other times you’re lined up all the way down the hallway with the ‘moving walk’.

  9. Gretchen B says:

    Not surprising that MSY ranked #1. I left there on the afternoon of Tuesday, November 27th, in hopes of missing the bulk of the Thanksgiving travelers, but discovered the airport even more of a mess than usual. The restrooms appeared not to have been serviced since before the holiday travel season and I found only 1, yes ONE, person at security manning the individual metal detector that you have to walk through. Yikes.

  10. Dan says:

    Good research here-CLE doesn’t have a “4D” concourse. There is a D concourse, but it has no security line at all!!!

  11. Scott says:

    There’s no 4D concourse in Cleveland. Did you mean C/D (which share a security checkpoint)?

  12. Rick Seaney says:

    I apologize for the Cleveland typo. It should read “C/D” not “4D”

  13. Jesse Harris says:

    As a former resident of Sin City, I can tell you the absolute worst time to try and fly to or from Las Vegas: the day before Thanksgiving. Not only do you have a bunch of people flying in, but it’s the busiest travel day of the year for locals. Keep in mind that’s a market of somewhere around 2.5-3M people, almost none of which have family in town.

  14. Joan Zaiz says:

    New Orleans may be bad but Chicago is the worst airport for delayed flights and lack of information.

  15. Press says:

    New Orleans isn’t (and wasn’t) a big city. It’s probably the smallest airport on the list. Maybe the day after Mardi Gras has a 40 minute wait, but usually it’s nothing like a truly big city airport. I can’t say why, but one very long wait at a gate C doesn’t gel with the 10-15 minutes at the other gates. But then, the TSA is famous for catching 7-year old terrorists, so GIGO.

  16. Rick Seaney says:

    The Top 40 cities were selected based on passenger enplanement statistics from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS.gov), The accuracy of the TSA database is unknown — we selected Monday afternoon because it wasn’t crazy busy like Monday morning but it was busy enough to get a nice sample of the 40 cities.

  17. Hoosierprof says:

    You’re correct about Concourse A at Indianapolis. If a female traveler happens to annoy one of the workers (who is also a woman) on the daytime shift there, she’ll be pulled to the side while the workers demonstrate how slowly they will perform the search. I avoid flying out of Indy now.

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