CHICAGO (CBS) — If you’re turning to the skies this Thanksgiving, the TSA has unveiled new automated security screening lanes at Midway International Airport, designed to reduce wait times getting into the terminals.
More than 207,000 people were expected to fly through Illinois airports for the Thanksgiving holiday.
The first thing they’ll notice at Midway is much larger bins at screening checkpoints. Those in line also will be able to move ahead of slower customers, thanks to an additional automated belt.
Under the old system that continues for most screening lanes at Midway, travelers have to wait for the person in front of them to load up a bin or bins with their personal carry-on items. Kevin McCarthy, the Transportation Security Administration’s federal security director for Midway, said now in the two new lanes, “Passengers, four at a time, can put their items in this tray. The tray is actually 25 percent larger than the trays that we’ve had in the past.”
McCarthy said the new automated screening lanes should operate about 50 percent faster than the older lanes. it’ll mean the process will run about 50% faster.
Bins now are specifically tagged, so they can be tracked through the X-ray system, allowing better communication between screeners.
Other new features include automatic separation of bags containing prohibited items, and cameras that photograph the contents of the bins and link them to X-ray images.
“It frees up our officers so they can focus on screening the bags, instead of some manual functions they had to perform, like bringing the trays back and forth. You’ll see there’s an automatic return system that, when you finish with that tray, it goes into a belt underneath that pops right back up here, so our officers can do what they’re paid to do, and screen the bags,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy who said the new system automatically pushes to the side any bag that needs an individual inspection. That allows items that look good to continue moving along.
TSA officials said the new system is more efficient for passengers, despite the initial learning curve travelers will face.
Frequent business traveler Megan Brtnik saw that things were moving more quickly in the new lanes Thursday morning.
“It was so fast, I wasn’t even ready at the security spot there,” she said. “I had to like get my passport and everything ready.”
Officials said the new lanes come at a good time just before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Approximately 28,000 passengers a day are expected to be screened during peak travel days at Midway.
For now, only two of the 17 security lanes at Midway have automated screening. O’Hare International Airport has had five such lanes since last year.