“Severe” TSA staffing shortages causing long delays at some airports

Chicago IL April 13 2016 It happened in just five minutes on a chilly, rainy Thursday morning at O’Hare International Airport — from 5:30 a.m. to 5:35 a.m., the security line at the American Airlines terminal jumped from four lanes of travelers to 10.

Passengers at the end of the line began to show signs of panic — shaking their heads, rolling their eyes, checking the time on their phones and muttering to their companions. Would they make it?

“We’re probably going to miss our flight,” fretted Kori Simonson, 36, of Chicago, who had come to the airport an hour early for a family trip to California. “I’m pretty worried.”

Airline officials and frequent travelers say these Space Mountain-type queues have become increasingly common at airports around the country.

The big lines can be blamed on Transportation Security Administration staffing reductions due to incorrect assumptions about how many people would sign up for expedited security screening, heightened security measures and a higher-than-expected increase in air traffic.

Since it started monitoring TSA wait times in late February, American Airlines has seen typical waits of 30 minutes to 60 minutes — with a high of 90 minutes. Mornings tend to be worst, but long waits are seen throughout the day. American is warning passengers to come to the airport at least two hours before their scheduled departure time for domestic flights and three hours for international.

The lines are expected to get much longer in the summer, the busiest season for air travel.

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