CHICAGO (CBS) — New automated security screening lines at O’Hare International Airport should significantly reduce wait times for travelers ahead of the busy holiday travel season.
American Airlines said two of its 18 checkpoints in Terminal 3 now have the automated screening lanes. United Airlines unveiled three such lanes in Terminal 1 on Monday.
The Transportation Security Administration said the new automated lanes are estimated to reduce wait times at screening checkpoints by 30 percent.
The systems automate many of the tasks at screening checkpoints, including drawing bags into the X-ray machines, returning bins back to the start of the line, and diverting bags that require additional inspection to a separate area. Cameras take photos of the outside of bags, matching them to the X-ray images of the inside.
The bins in the automated lanes are 25 percent larger than those in regular screening lanes. The automated lanes use multiple conveyor belts to allow up to five passengers to load bins at once.
“Our lanes have been up and running for about a week, and the feedback that we have received from our employees and customers has been overwhelmingly positive,” American vice president Franco Tedeschi said.
The automated screening systems also are being tested in Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, and Miami.
United and American announced plans for the new systems in Chicago this summer, weeks after extremely long lines at security checkpoints at O’Hare and Midway International Airport prompted the TSA to beef up staffing.
“In 2016, American Airlines will have spent nearly $30 million on enhancing security and improving checkpoint efficiency at airports across the country, including here in Chicago,” Tedeschi said.
On some days in May, the lines at O’Hare and Midway stretched to as long as two or three hours, and hundreds of travelers missed their flights due to the extremely long wait at TSA checkpoints. The TSA added dozens of security officers at Chicago’s airports, and announced plans to hire hundreds of new officers nationwide, and to pay for more part-time workers and overtime.