Airlines say TSA fixes shrink O’Hare wait times to 15 minutes

Security lines at O’Hare International Airport have become dramatically shorter — at least for the time being — in the wake of TSA staff increases locally and this week’s ouster of the agency’s head of security.

One airline official said Tuesday that waits were down to 15 minutes at O’Hare after the Transportation Security Administration faced heavy criticism last week for long lines at the nation’s airports. Waits of more than two hours May 14 at O’Hare caused 450 people to miss their flights and dozens to sleep overnight at the airport.

TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger came Friday to Chicago to meet with local officials and expressed regret for the problem, which the agency has blamed on a staffing shortage combined with higher passenger numbers. TSA moved 100 part-time officers at Chicago airports to full-time status last week and brought in a new management team and four new canine units, which TSA officials say helped speed lines by sniffing passengers for explosives.

Another 58 TSA officers are expected to come to Chicago airports in the coming month.

This week, the TSA replaced its former head of security, Kelly Hoggan, who according to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform received more than $90,000 in bonuses from 2013 to late 2014.

A memo obtained by the Chicago Tribune sent by Neffenger on Monday does not name Hoggan, but does name his temporary replacement, Darby LaJoye. Neffenger called LaJoye an experienced federal security director with successful stints at two of the nation’s largest airports, Los Angeles International Airport in California and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

“His strong leadership and proven operational expertise have driven a renewed agency-wide focus on security effectiveness,” Neffenger said.

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