It’s no secret that if you have TSA PreCheck or CLEAR, your wait at the TSA checkpoint is going to be significantly shorter than if you’re not a member of either program. If you’re lucky enough to be flying out of an airport that has a temporary or permanent “make a reservation” system set up (these are the ones that have them at the moment), your wait time can also be shortened.
But let’s say you aren’t a member of either program, and aren’t lucky enough to be flying from any of those airports. And you’re just trying to get an idea of how long of a wait you’re going to have at the security checkpoint because you’ve heard about nightmares of waits that were so long, they went OUTSIDE THE FLIPPIN’ BUILDING.
Well, you COULD read this post, which gives you some idea of how long you should wait for your specific circumstances. But as succinct and well written as it is (ahem…I wrote it), even that’s still just a guide; it doesn’t give you any “real life” scenarios.
If you’re savvy, you HAVE checked TSA’s app for wait times but that’s run by the government and maybe you’re one of the majority of Americans who don’t particularly trust them. So you look elsewhere for TSA wait times. What’s a good place to check? We recently found this site and decided to give it a shot:
If you Google TSA Wait Times, one of the first URLs you come across is one called (wait for it) TSAWaitTimes.com.
There’s not a whole lot of information about them. They’re apparently a part of TayTech LLC, which is an online entity that, “develops unique digital experiences.” Located in Oshkosh, WI, they say they had 2.1 million unique visitors and 7.6 million page views last year, thanks to their 4 wholly-owned properties:
- Fantasy Nerds: they take “the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ to a new level by aggregating the rankings and projections of some of the best fantasy sports sites on the planet, weighting them based upon each site’s accuracy, and producing the industry’s most accurate fantasy football, baseball and basketball rankings.
- Celebrity Bucks: on this website, they take,”the entertainment news of the world, combines it with the skill and competitiveness of fantasy sports, and tops it off with the prowess of the stock market to create the world’s most innovative fantasy celebrity game.”
- Stranger Dare: “a game that is meant to be played with friends in an environment full of strangers. Each person takes turns doing a dare that involves strangers. Maybe it’s going up to a random stranger and barking at him/her. Maybe you’ll have to get a stranger to give you a high five, let you use their phone, or give them an uncomfortably long hug. Whatever the dare, it’s going to be entertaining!”
- TSA Wait Times: “Using government data, traveler-submitted experiences, and a bit of Artificial Intelligence (AI), TSAWaitTimes.com determines the average likely wait time for every airport in the United States. In addition to security wait times, we’re looking at weather and official delay/groundstop programs at each airport. PLUS – we’ll let you know which security lines and carriers have TSA PreCheck available!”
I suppose if you’re interested in fantasy sports, celebrities or doing weird crap with/to strangers, the other websites would be for you. But if you’re reading this, I assume you’re mostly interested in TSA Wait Times.
I checked out their website and compared their average wait times to MyTSA’s. I used the most recent list of the busiest airports in the world but removed the two that were not based in the U.S. since they wouldn’t be serviced by the TSA. The time I initially checked (a Saturday night at 9pm ET) wasn’t particularly busy – TSAWaitTimes.com listed the wait times for all 8 airports at anywhere from 0 to 9 minutes (some also had seconds, i.e. 7 minutes, 12 seconds – I estimated, up or down, to the nearest whole minute). MyTSA.com listed them all as 0-15 minutes. TSAWaitTimes’ times were admittedly more specific, but still fit into the range that MyTSA.com gave.
|Atlanta (ATL)||0-15 min.||4 min.|
|Dallas Ft. Worth (DFW)||0-15 min.||2 min.|
|Denver (DEN)||0-15 min.||5 min.|
|Chicago (ORD)||0-15 min.||0 min.|
|Los Angeles (LAX)||0-15 min.||7 min.|
|Charlotte (CLT)||0-15 min.||0 min.|
|Orlando (MCO)||0-15 min.||0 min.|
|Las Vegas (LAS)||0-15 min.||9 min.|
I looked again the next day – Sunday at 10am – and some of TSAWaitTimes’ waits (specifically DFW, CLT and LAS) weren’t in sync with what MyTSA’s app:
|Atlanta (ATL)||0-15 min.||6 min.|
|Dallas Ft. Worth (DFW)||15-30 min.||4 min.|
|Denver (DEN)||0-15 min.||12 min.|
|Chicago (ORD)||0-15 min.||11 min.|
|Los Angeles (LAX)||0-15 min.||9 min.|
|Charlotte (CLT)||0-15 min.||25 min.|
|Orlando (MCO)||15-30 min.||17 min.|
|Las Vegas (LAS)||0-15 min.||21 min.|
So THEN I looked at a time that’s notoriously more crowded – 6pm on a Sunday. People are coming home from vacations, people traveling for business who need to be at work Monday morning, yadda yadda yadda. The “out of sync-ness” was even more apparent, with 6 out of the 8 airports (DFW, DEN, ORD, CLT, MCO and LAS) not matching up with MyTSA.
|Atlanta (ATL)||0-15 min.||13 min.|
|Dallas Ft. Worth (DFW)||15-30 min.||4 min.|
|Denver (DEN)||15-30 min.||11 min.|
|Chicago (ORD)||0-15 min.||16 min.|
|Los Angeles (LAX)||0-15 min.||10 min.|
|Charlotte (CLT)||30-45 min.||14 min.|
|Orlando (MCO)||30-45 min.||14 min.|
|Las Vegas (LAS)||15-30 min.||9 min.|
Obviously, we’re not talking about huge chunks of time (although the difference between 14 minutes, and 30-45 minutes, is a little more significant). And my sample size, just 3 search times, was teeny tiny. But there were some other things that made me wary about TSAWaitTimes:
- Just for fun, I had checked the wait times for Orlando on TSAWaitTime at some point early Saturday evening. I don’t have a screen shot of it but they said the wait was some ridiculous, like an hour and change. TSA’s app was suggesting 0-15 minutes at the time. Then on Monday at 9am, I checked it again – TSAWaitTimes said the wait should be 8 minutes, while MyTSA said it was 45-60 minutes.
- Both TSAWaitTimes and MyTSA app have historic data for specific times that day of the week (MyTSA can actually let you check any time of any day of the week). If you compare the two for any airport on any given day, their times can be similar….or significantly far apart (MyTSAWaitTime says there’s 31 minute wait at MCO between 2am and 3am. MyTSA app suggests TSA isn’t even open then – it closes at midnight and re-opens at 4am).
And then there’s this awkwardness…
- Sunday. 6:30pm. LaGuardia (LGA). TSAWaitTimes says you should expect to wait 12 minutes. But travelers are currently reporting a wait of 30 minutes. So WHICH ONE IS IT? (MyTSA app suggested the wait was 15-30 minutes at that time).
- TSAWaitTimes has another disadvantage – they don’t have an app; they’re just web based. I suppose you could bookmark them and look them up on your phone’s web browser. I did…and they’ve got annoying ads GALORE.
Both MyTSA app and TSAWaitTime use similar references to get their suggested wait times. I would think MyTSA’s app gets significantly more feedback from passengers. I suspect it’s more accurate than TSAWaitTime’s.
Featured Image (cropped): Pixabay
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