CHICAGO (CBS) — Airport security wait times that sometimes stretched to two hours or more at O’Hare and Midway airports this spring have been cut down to 10 minutes or less, city officials announced Tuesday.
The city and the Transportation Security Administration said the key to reducing wait times was adding hundreds of full-time screening officers and 10 new canine teams at the two airports.
TSA officials also tripled authorized overtime for security screeners starting in May to help keep security lines moving during peak travel hours.
The increased staffing has led to a more than 90 percent reduction in wait times during peak travel times at O’Hare, from more than 100 minutes in the first half of May to 7 minutes in the first half of August. At Midway, wait times in peak travel periods went from 65 minutes in early May to 10 minutes in early August.
“TSA’s efforts here have been heroic in addressing the problem,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a press conference with Chicago Department of Aviation and TSA officials on Tuesday.
On some days in May, wait times at TSA checkpoints at Chicago’s airports stretched past two hours. On one day alone, more than 450 American Airlines passengers alone missed their flights at O’Hare due to the security lines, and 30 flights were delayed over TSA wait times.
TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger was reluctant to place blame for the travel delay debacles at O’Hare and Midway in May, but he said a huge number of travelers combined with a budget-induced staffing shortage created the perfect storm of delays.
“This is the busiest travel season on record. In fact, some of the days this summer are bigger than what we used to consider the big days of Thanksgiving. So we’ve had some of our largest travel days ever, and I think it was just a matter of getting resources back in, and working with Congress to do so,” he said.
On Tuesday morning, O’Hare passengers were experiencing average wait times of five minutes or less. Chicago Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans said that’s one of the best performances in the country among the largest airports.