O'Hare Wait Times Down to 15 Minutes after TSA Improvements
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Chicago O’Hare has experienced some of the worst security wait times in the country recently, with hundreds missing flights because of two-hour-plus wait times caused, mainly, by understaffed TSA checkpoints.
After Mayor Rahm Emanuel complained about the situation and threatened to privatize security at the airport, TSA responded by bringing in more agents, moving part time staff to full time and also changing the airport’s management team. The results of these moves, at least for now, seem to be positive.
Earlier this week, airline representatives said that wait times were down to 15 minutes, a vast improvement compared to the two-hour-plus waits that passengers were enduring only a short time ago.
On the surface, the lower wait times seem like a positive step for TSA. Some recent moves by the agency, such as relying on its PreCheck program and building new checkpoints at some airports, did not help reduce wait times at all. So there were plenty of doubters when the agency initially promised to improve the situation in Chicago.
The big question now is whether or not the lower wait times will be sustained at O’Hare during the busy summer travel season. We will find out quickly. The new setup will be tested during the Memorial Day Weekend, one of the busiest travel periods of the summer. Another important question is this: can the fixes that worked in Chicago be used at other airports that are suffering from long delays?
The improvements in Chicago are enough to give fliers hope that TSA can eventually fix this problem nationwide. For now though, representatives from all three legacy carriers are happy with the way things are going at O’Hare.
Not everyone is a believer though. Illinois senator Mark Kirk kept the pressure on TSA, releasing a statement after TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger fired head of security, Kelly Hoggan. "The cause and effect of mismanagement at TSA is a security risk for travelers and results in expensive missed flights. Americans have lost faith in the ability and commitment of the federal government to act on their best behalf, and the failures of TSA (are) another example of this sad reality."
Kirk’s statement could be seen as giving indirect support to the idea of privatizing airport security, a move that has been gaining support around the country as checkpoint wait times skyrocket.
The early results of Chicago’s quick-fixes, however, suggest that things could get better even if airports keep their security in the hands of TSA.
There are still plenty of questions. Can TSA keep the 15 minute wait times during the summer travel season? Can it make the same kind of improvements at other airports around the country? Can it make these necessary changes without needing to request more funding?
If the answer to any of these questions is "no," then support for moving security out of a government agency’s hands and turning it over to private contractors could gain steam once again.
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