New O'Hare 'innovation lanes' expected to move passengers through security faster

CHICAGO (WLS) -- New automated TSA checkpoint lanes arrived Monday at O'Hare International Airport, just in time for the busy holiday travel season.

The "innovation lanes" are expected to move passengers through security faster.

The new lanes are designed to use multiple conveyor belts to allow up to five passengers to unload their belongings. The bins are 25 percent larger than regular screening bins. Bags that are a potential threat can be directed to a separate area without interrupting the bins behind it. There will be a separate conveyor belt continuously bringing by new bins so that there will never be a shortage.

O'Hare is the first airport in the country to have the new automated lanes.

United Airlines opened three new lanes in Terminal 1 on Monday. Since Nov. 8, American Airlines has had two new screening checkpoint lanes in Terminal 3.

Earlier this year, passengers were waiting in security lines for hours, many missing their flights. Congress approved more staff for the TSA, more K-units were deployed to Chicago and the new automated lanes.

"TSA is increasingly working with partners both foreign and domestic on innovative ways to find efficiencies in the system while maintaining our focus on security. These automated screening lanes represent a step in that direction. Thanks to this collaboration we will continue to make improvements to the aviation security screening process," said Jill Vaughan, of the TSA.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel worked with the Transportation Security Administration to hire more employees. Since then, wait times have vastly improved.

"Earlier this year, wait times at TSA checkpoints escalated to an unacceptable 104 minutes," Emanuel said. "Working together with our federal and airline partners, we resolved this crisis and today have average wait times that are among the shortest of major airports in the country. I want to commend TSA for their commitment to improving service and thank American Airlines for continuing that progress by making innovation lanes a priority at O'Hare."

Passengers are looking forward to the new change.

"I think it will work," said Tiffani Pierson, a passenger. "Five lanes at a time, I believe it will be a little easier."

"It's going to be able to grab more people at one time and have people wait less, so it's a lot better for everybody in general, not just security, but the passengers more importantly," said passenger Carlos Esparza.

Officials said the new lanes can in decrease the time travelers spend in security screening by 30 percent.

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