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Staffing shortages create long lines at Montana airport

Posted at 9:47 AM, Sep 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-30 11:47:52-04

BILLINGS - If you've flown out of Billings Logan International Airport recently, you may have found yourself in a long line.

It's become a big problem with many waiting hours only to miss their flights.

Some passengers have had delays getting through security.

Airport management says it's because of a shortage of TSA workers.

And the recommendation now is to get here about two hours before your flight leaves.

Many are eager for early morning flights, but on a recent Sunday morning, travelers saw long lines for check-in and security.

"It is the worst that I've ever seen it," said flyer Katie Heyneman. "And I've lived in Billings and flown out of that airport for eight years. And normally it's a very chill airport."

Heyneman flies regularly out of Billings and says many were stressed.

"This was a fully booked flight that was half empty at 7 a.m.," Heyneman said. "We didn't leave until 7:20. And by then the plane had mostly filled. However, we still left probably 20 people behind just because we had to leave because people had to make their connections."

"Sunday morning was a disaster here," said Kevin Ploehn, city of Billings director of aviation & transit. "We had 54 people that got left behind, and the line ran the full length of the ticket counter area."

Ploehn said delays at security and flight check-ins happened because of a shortage of agents and airline employees.

"The airlines and the TSA are all understaffed," Ploehn said. "That's causing some problems with getting passengers through the screening process and check-in process and time for them to make their flights."

Ploehn says the mornings are even worse with more than 400 people trying to get through security to board three big planes that can cause them to miss their flights.

"Could be day, could be the next day," Ploehn said. "You never know. Could be the next flight. On Sunday, it was the next day for most of those people."

Ploehn expects the shortage of workers to continue for the foreseeable future.

"I'd say now till the first of the year, two hours and then at least 90 minutes after that," Ploehn said.

"In Billings, you used to be able to get away with an hour, hour and a half because TSA used to only take maybe five to 10 minutes," Heyneman said. "But that's just not the case anymore."

Ploehn also says it's possible the wait may improve when TSA moves into the new terminal with updated security technology.

(City of Billings Press Release)

BILLINGS - Travelers who have plans to fly out of Billings Logan International Airport are being urged to arrive at least two hours before their flight.

Staffing shortages at airline ticket counters and TSA are creating long lines and recently caused some passengers to miss their flight.

"With most of the airlines and the TSA being short of staff, we are seeing long lines on certain days, and some passengers being left behind as they try to get through the check in and screening process. Right now, passengers really need to get to the Airport two hours before their flight time to ensure they make it on to their flight. Mornings have been especially difficult with all the airlines launching their first flights for the day,” said Kevin Ploehn, City of Billings director of Aviation and Transit.

Ploehn believes the issue will not resolve any time soon.

"The mornings could get worse in October when some of the airline schedules change, condensing the window for getting passengers processed. It is just a challenging time for hiring and we expect this situation to continue right into the holidays, so arriving early is the best way to avoid any issues," Ploehn said.