Begich Demands Action to Reduce Travel Delays at Juneau Airport

Uses Transportation, Homeland Security Committee seats to address staffing and equipment shortages at JNU

U.S. Senator Mark Begich is using his seats on three important Senate committees to address problems in Alaska’s capital city with airport travel delays that could cause potential economic losses during the legislative session and peak tourism travel season.

In the past week Begich heard numerous concerns and complaints from Juneau officials and residents that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) staffing shortages at Juneau International Airport (JNU) are already causing flight delays and missed connections.  Last fall, TSA began to reduce JNU screening staff from 52 to 41 officers.         

Local TSA managers in Juneau recently requested an additional CT-80 baggage scanner to reduce and prevent delays, a request headquarters in DC needs to approve.  Begich pushed TSA to resolve the delays by providing all the resources that may be necessary to accommodate travel at JNU.

In a letter sent today to TSA Administrator John Pistole and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson, Begich writes:

“As Juneau is Alaska’s capital city and has no road connection, there is an uptick in air traffic during Alaska’s legislative session, which runs from January into April and has already exacerbated the delays.  The situation is bound to become worse still as tourism travel to and from Juneau ramps up during the summer.

“The announcement to reduce staff appears to have not accounted for fluctuations in travel in Juneau and Alaska during peak travel months.  As you know, Juneau is an important destination for cruise ship passengers in the summer and with multiple cruise ships arriving and departing each day, passenger demand at JNU can increase by hundreds of passengers on peak days.  Starting on May 29, 2014, Delta Airlines will resume seasonal service at JNU, including an additional morning flight with a capacity of 167 passengers. According to reports to my office, during the mornings of summer 2014 the airport will administer five southbound flights and one northbound flight all within a 2.5-hour window.

“Failure by TSA to provide adequate resources to JNU could have severe economic consequences for local businesses and other Alaska communities.  Not only is Juneau an important economic driver and our capital city, it also serves as travel hub for Southeast Alaska. I want to ensure JNU has the resources it needs to allow Alaskans to make their connections in advance of the upcoming busy travel season.”

Juneau is an important economic driver and Alaska’s capital city, but it also serves as travel hub for Southeast Alaska.  A number of northbound and southbound flights departing Juneau stop in one or more Alaska communities before reaching the final destination.  If flights are delayed in Juneau, the delay could ripple through the rest of the itinerary to other communities.

Begich has been effective in using his Senate committee seats to solve unique Alaska issues. Last week, after Alaskans were blindsided by the recent decision by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to increase rates on parcel post package, Begich convinced the Postmaster General to roll back rate increases for Alaskans who are off the road system and shipping or receiving large packages.

Begich also convinced the Postmaster General to allow the Ketchikan Post Office, and other communities in the area, to start processing mail again.  Mail originating in and destined for the Ketchikan area was being sent up to Juneau for processing and then back down to Ketchikan.

Begich sits on both the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which oversee TSA and DHS.  He also sits on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

A copy of the letter is attached.