(Reuters) - Airport screening delays have caused more than 70,000 American Airlines <AAL.O> customers and 40,000 checked bags to miss their flights this year, an executive for the airline told a U.S. congressional subcommittee on Thursday.
A shortage of staff and a surge in air travelers have created a nightmare scenario for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), with airport wait times in places like Chicago stretching beyond two hours.
While TSA is taking steps to shorten lines such as hiring more full-time officers, it lacks the staffing to handle peak travel times this summer, Administrator Peter Neffenger said on Wednesday.
American, the world's largest airline, wants TSA to create a senior internal role focused on traveler concerns, said American Airlines Group Inc Senior Vice President for Customer Experience Kerry Philipovitch. The request comes days after Neffenger shook up TSA's management, removing the head of security operations, Kelly Hoggan.
Philipovitch also recommended that TSA consider reinstating a risk-based screening program that it canceled last year because of high-profile lapses.
In the program, officers trained to detect irregular behavior would pull unsuspicious travelers randomly into "PreCheck" lanes that can process people faster, as they do not remove their shoes and other belongings.
TSA has projected it will screen 740 million people at U.S. airports this year, some 15 percent more than in 2013 despite a 12 percent cut in its staff.
(Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Meredith Mazzilli)