Fifty-eight security officers are being sent to O'Hare International Airport in an effort to reduce lengthy wait times at security checkpoints, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said Tuesday.
In addition to 58 new security officers, the TSA is sending extra bomb-sniffing canine teams to O'Hare, according to the lawmaker.
U.S. airports are currently facing an influx of travelers. As a result, travelers are facing longer security lines, which have caused missed or delayed flights.
"As summer approaches, the number of people traveling increases dramatically--that means long lines at airport security checkpoints. Protecting the safety of passengers remains priority number one, but poor planning and inadequate funding have led to huge lines and unreasonable delays at airports in Chicago and across the country," Durbin said in a statement. "We need more security officers and more screening lines open and running to bring down wait times, and Secretary Johnson assured me that DHS and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are moving quickly to hire and train additional security officers. They will send 58 new security officers and four additional bomb-sniffing canine teams to O'Hare immediately."
He added: "More travelers signing up for the TSA's Pre-Check program will also help shorten the regular security lines, and I pressed Secretary Johnson to improve and expedite the enrollment process for that program. Airlines must also encourage more travelers to check bags instead of hauling them through the main security lines, and I'll be calling on them to waive their checked baggage fees during these peak travel months. I will convene a meeting with state and local officials and the airlines this week to ensure everyone is on the same page about fixing this problem right now."
Durbin released a video statement on this issue:
The TSA has made several other committments to help alleviate long wait times at Chicago's airports, according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who spoke with Johnson and the TSA's administrator today. In a statement, the mayor's office said the TSA plans to take the following actions:
1) In the coming days, 100 TSA staff members will shift from part-time to full-time employment, providing additional screeners at peak hours.
2) An extra 58 TSA officers will be assigned to Chicago's airports in the next three weeks, and nearly 250 extra will be assigned by mid-August.
3) The amount of authorized overtime has been tripled.
4) Additional morning shifts are being added for TSA screeners.
5) By this weekend, TSA will have brought on an additional 5 Canine Teams to Chicago from around the country, enabling TSA to screen an additional 5,000 passengers through TSA Precheck lanes per day. These teams will help double the number of passengers that receive expedited screening at these airports.
6) TSA is immediately sending a team of operational experts from around the country to Chicago, led by a Regional Director, to help diagnose and make additional recommendations to improve operations. The team arrived today.
7) TSA will work closely with the Department of Aviation and airlines to help manage checkpoint flows, manage lines and communicate with traveling public.
"The TSA wait times at Chicago's airports have been unacceptable. There is no excuse for passengers to wait in line for hours," Emanuel said. "The resources we have secured are an important step in providing needed relief for the traveling public, as well as ensuring the safety and security of our passengers. I want to thank Secretary Johnson and Administrator Neffenger for their time today, for recognizing how critical Chicago's airports are to the national aviation system, and for making Chicago a priority."