Last updated: 12:46 PM ET, Tue May 31 2016

Memorial Day Delays Not As Bad As Expected at Most Airports

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | May 31, 2016

Memorial Day Delays Not As Bad As Expected at Most Airports

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Despite warnings about massive delays at airports over the Memorial Day Weekend, there were few headaches for travelers at most of the country’s busiest airports during the holiday.  

Big improvement in checkpoint wait times

Even at O’Hare, where delays at TSA checkpoints have stretched beyond two hours in recent weeks, things ran relatively smoothly, with wait times of around 15 minutes for most of the weekend at the Chicago hub.

American Airlines spokesperson Ross Feinstein spoke to the media during the holiday, saying that he was happy with the way things had improved. "Things have been going pretty well so far this weekend and we are working hard to make sure that we have no repeat of what we saw in Chicago,” he said, referring to the past month’s two-hour-plus waits that caused passengers to miss flights.  

READ MORE: How Bad Will TSA Delays Be Over Memorial Day Weekend?

Airlines continue to keep in touch with security officials every day as they work to avoid this kind of delay going forward.

TSA fixes are working... at least for now

The lack of Memorial Day gridlock at security checkpoints means that, at least for now, some of the TSA fixes that were put in place over the past couple of weeks are working. 

One of the biggest changes has been the introduction of more canine teams at screening areas. These specialized sniffer dogs can sometimes eliminate the need for passengers to remove their shoes or take their laptops out of the bags. The dogs were deployed at the country’s largest airports, where delays have been the worst this spring. 

Airports also had extra security staff on hand for the peak travel hours. In Atlanta, for example, agents were shifted from smaller airports to help out during busy times. Things reportedly ran smoothly at the world’s busiest airport during the holiday weekend. 

Additionally, airlines have started to deploy their own employees to help with non-security tasks at checkpoints. 

Some delays

Not all travelers had a smooth trip. Long lines were reported at times in Denver and Sacramento, among other hubs. New York JFK had a major computer outage on Sunday, which caused delays for passengers traveling through the terminal operated by British Airways. Things had returned to normal by Monday.  

READ MORE: Server Crash At JFK Jams Up Memorial Day Weekend Travel

Overall most airports reported average wait times in the 15-30 minute range. 

Can TSA keep it up all summer?

The big question is whether or not TSA and airports can sustain this kind of performance over the entire summer. A majority of the year’s busiest travel days are between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This means that the past weekend was little more than a dress rehearsal for what is to come. 

Hartsfield-Jackson’s recently appointed general manager, Roosevelt Council, speaking with local TV news reporters, said that his airport’s approach going forward was to get back to basics during the busy summer travel season. “We’re getting back to a lot of our core basic things that have been always important for this airport.”  

It appears that, for the most part, TSA was also able to perform well when it came to fundamentals over Memorial Day Weekend. However, it still remains to be seen whether or not the agency can sustain the 15-minute wait times during the coming summertime rush. 


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