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TSA Sending Extra Officers To O'Hare To Help With Security Lines

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Faced with excruciatingly long lines at security checkpoints, the TSA is dispatching 58 new security officers and four bomb-sniffing canine teams to O'Hare International Airport, according to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.

The move comes as officials at the Chicago Department of Aviation advised anyone flying out of O'Hare or Midway International Airport to show up three hours before their flight's scheduled departure time. That's even longer than the two-hour cushion the TSA has suggested for domestic flights, although the TSA recommends arriving three hours early for international flights.

At 6 a.m. Tuesday, the Chicago Department of Aviation sent out messages on its Twitter accounts for O'Hare and Midway, advising travelers about unusually long lines for security.

"It's been a miserable situation; a real meltdown," Durbin said of the increasingly long security lines at airports across the U.S.

The senator said he has spoken to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson about the massive delays at Chicago's airports, and was assured the TSA is moving quickly to train and hire more officers nationwide. He also said the TSA will soon send 58 new security officers and four additional bomb-sniffing canine teams to O'Hare, which is routinely one of the three busiest airports in the U.S.

"They're going to be coming to us in the next few weeks, so I don't want to tell people this is an overnight change," Durbin said.

However, something else is happening right away, according to Durbin.

"TSA people in Washington are sending out a management team immediately to deal with the situation on the ground, to see if there are ways to make this more efficient," he said.

Durbin blamed poor "planning and inadequate funding" for the security delays at airports across the country.


The TSA has announced plans to hire nearly 800 new officers and pay for more part-time workers and overtime, in an effort to address worsening wait times at airport security checkpoints. The agency has said the increasingly long lines at airports are the result of a combination of increased traveler volumes and TSA staffing shortages due to federal budget cuts.

The union that represents TSA officers has said the agency needs to hire 6,000 employees to fully staff security lines.

Over the past several days, many passengers have said they missed their flights in Chicago, even after following the TSA's recommendations to show up two hours early for a domestic flight, because they've had to wait up to three hours in line for security. American Airlines said 4,000 passengers have missed flights at O'Hare since February due to the security lines.

Durbin said if more travelers sign up for the TSA's Pre-Check program, it would help ease the burden at security checkpoints, and reduce wait times.

The PreCheck program requires travelers to undergo an in-person interview and fingerprinting, and allows them to receive expedited screening – no removing shoes, belts, or jackets; liquids and laptops can stay in their bags; and no full-body scans are required, just standard metal detectors.

The fee for the PreCheck program is $85, but once a traveler gets their "known traveler number," it is valid for five years.

Most major carriers participate but airlines such as Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines have yet to upgrade their computer systems to allow PreCheck. Here are the airlines currently participating: Allegiant Airlines, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, OneJet, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country, United Airlines, Virgin America and WestJet.

Durbin also urged airlines to waive checked baggage fees and encourage more travelers to check their luggage, because the extra bags just add to wait times at security checkpoints.

"This is just a building headache, and one that could be avoided if they check their bags. The baggage fee is one thing that discourages folks," Durbin said.

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