TSA security wait times increasing at O'Hare

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some spring break travelers are learning the hard way that getting through airport security is taking longer than ever.

United warned customers they could stand in line for up to two hours. And American Airlines is publicly criticizing the Transportation Safety Administration for lines that cause passengers to miss flights.

People as far as the eye can see. There's a line just to get into the line for the security maze at O'Hare.

"This feels like I'm in Disney World!" traveler Rich Frantz laughed.

People are now taking to Twitter and other social media sights to vent.

"The TSA line at Terminal 3 at O'Hare for American Air outside of the roped off lines. EVERYONE will miss their flight," Stephanie Pratt posted.

The airlines are taking notice.

"The TSA has a duty to screen passengers and bags in an efficient manner, and that's not being done right now," said Leslie Scott, American Airlines spokesperson.

During the morning and late afternoon rush, American says wait times have reached an hour and a half at O'Hare.

One recent week saw more than 300 American customers miss their flights due to security delays. The TSA doesn't release wait times at specific airports.

But an agency report says last year nationally less than 2 percent of passengers waited in longer 20 minutes. But that number is skewed because 44 percent of passengers receive expedited screening, a perk people pay for. Even then, the wait can be unpredictable.

"I thought maybe on a Sunday or Monday because spring break, but not on a Tuesday," said traveler Mary Pawlowski.

The TSA admits there's a problem and wait times are on the rise. Staffing levels have remained flat while passenger traffic at O'Hare is up 8 percent. The TSA says it doesn't have the money to hire more screeners.

"If the staffing challenges are not addressed by the TSA, it's going to get worse. We run about 450 flights a day now in the spring, that ramps up to more than 500 flights a day this summer," Scott said.

And that means expect more frustrated faces - and missed flights - in the months to come.

The TSA is encouraging people to sign up for expedited screening, which costs $85.

The agency also encourages travelers to check their bags for prohibited items before they get in line to help speed the process.
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