TSA adds automated screening lanes to Midway Airport

Chicago (WSL)–With a record 50 million people expected to travel over the week of Thanksgiving, the Transportation Security Administration unveiled new technology Thursday to get people through lines faster at Midway Airport.

TSA officials said travelers will make it through security about 50 percent faster than in the past.

The first thing travelers will notice? Larger bins. A laptop, toiletries, a pair of shoes and a jacket will all fit in one bin, instead of the usual two or three. Everything will get scanned at once, and after the bins go through and travelers retrieve their belongings, an automated system kicks the bins back to the front of the line.

Travelers will also notice a change if their bag is singled out for additional screening.

“If there’s an item that we want to take another look at in the bag, a possible threat item, the system automatically kicks that bag with a diverter arm off to the side. It goes onto a separate belt system and waits there for one of our officers to screen that bag,” said TSA’s Kevin McCarthy.

In the past, bags would stand in a queue, waiting for an officer to arrive and holding up passengers.

The new system is being launched on only two of Midway’s 17 security lanes, with the possibility for more in the future.

This new system already exists at O’Hare International Airport, where travelers may have noticed two of these automated lanes in the United Terminal and another three in the American Terminal. They were installed a year ago and TSA said they are making a difference when it comes to cutting down passenger wait time for security screenings.

TSA personnel will be on-hand during this transition to help travelers navigate the new equipment.

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Army veteran TSA agent runs exploding battery away from passengers at Orlando Airport

“The Transportation Safety Administration released surveillance video showing an agent moving a smoking bag containing an exploding lithium-ion battery away from passengers during a panic at Orlando International Airport Friday.

The TSA agent, a 20-year Army veteran, said he believed the bag to be an improvised explosive device. He placed it between a concrete column and a concrete planter to mitigate any harm that might come with a full explosion.

The TSA commended the agent, saying he ran the bag away even as panicked passengers “knocked over the queuing stanchions and dropped roller bags, creating loud banging sounds which were perceived as gunshots, further spreading panic throughout the airport.”

Numerous people at OIA reported there was a panic caused by those loud noises, initially thought to be gunshots.

“Our TSA Team’s performance was outstanding. I’m very proud of our team and how they responded to both the incident and the recovery process of rescreening passengers,” said Jerry Henderson, TSA Federal Security Director.
“Our people responded as they are trained to do, and to lead passengers to safety.”

The Orlando Police Department said on Twitter that no shots had been fired and it was “a loud sound that startled people.”

The department later said on Twitter that the noise was caused by a lithium-ion battery that exploded inside a camera.

The bag the camera was in started to smolder, but no one was injured, the OPD tweet said.

The incident was first reported just after 5 p.m., airport officials said in a statement.

“As a result of the incident, a ground stop was issued and a number of flights were held while passengers were allowed back into the building and security checkpoints reactivated,” the statement said.

The incident did not pose any danger to people at the airport, the department’s Twitter post said.

Regardless, photos given to Channel 9 showed a normally busy terminal that was completely empty.

Because everyone who evacuated the terminal had to go through security screening again, travelers were experiencing inordinately long lines.

“It’s crazy. Nobody knows anything,” traveler McKenzie Golden said.
She had just gone through the security checkpoint and was preparing to get onto a flight home to Michigan when the chaos hit.

“I heard people screaming and then everybody hit the ground and people were basically running over each other, trampling each other,” Golden said.
Numerous flights were delayed due to the incident.

Hours after the battery explosion, massive crowds were still working their way through security to get to their flights.”

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TSA Pre ✓® expands to include 5 additional airlines

WASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration today announced the expansion of its TSA Pre✓® expedited screening program to five additional domestic and international carriers. Now in operation, the five new partnering airlines are All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Contour Aviation, Finnair and Korean Air. Today’s announcement brings the number of airlines participating in TSA Pre✓® to 42 domestic and international carriers.

TSA Pre✓® is an expedited screening program that enables low-risk travelers to enjoy a smart and efficient screening experience at 200 U.S. airports. For TSA Pre✓® travelers, there is no need to remove shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts or light jackets.

TSA Pre✓® is available when departing from a U.S. airport to a foreign country, and for domestic, connecting flights after returning to the U.S. Travelers who are U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals and lawful permanent residents of the U.S. can apply for TSA Pre✓® for a cost of $85 for five years, or $17 per year through the TSA Pre✓® application program. Once approved, travelers will receive a “Known Traveler Number” and will have the opportunity to utilize TSA Pre✓® lanes at select security checkpoints when traveling on any of the 42 participating airlines.

Other passengers who are eligible for TSA Pre✓® include: U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler programs, Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI. TSA Pre✓® is also available for U.S. Armed Forces service members, including those serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, Reserves and National Guard. To find the program that best suits your travel needs, use the Department of Homeland Security trusted traveler comparison tool.

As always, TSA continues to incorporate unpredictable security measures, both seen and unseen, throughout the airport. All travelers will be screened, and no individual will be guaranteed expedited screening.

For more information, visit tsa.gov or read the frequently asked questions.

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TSA deploys hundreds of staff to assist with hurricane relief efforts

“The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has deployed more than 1,100 members of its workforce to help with hurricane relief efforts in some of the hardest-hit areas.

About 500 employees were dispatched to assist with screening operations at impacted airports, while another 660 TSA workers volunteered to serve on the Department of Homeland Security’s “Surge

Capacity Force” to help deliver aid directly to storm survivors.

At Cyril King Airport in St. Thomas, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Irma, the TSA has had to use alternative screening methods — such as canine teams and hand-held metal detectors — to screen passengers for charter flights.

And in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the airport was so crippled by Hurricane Maria that Federal Aviation Administration technicians had to use chainsaws to clear a path in order to reach radar sites and restore the radar technology.

“I am proud and humbled by the spirit and dedication to service exhibited by the TSA workforce. Several TSA officers even walked miles from their homes in St. Thomas to reach the airport,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske in a statement.

“Make no mistake, TSA stands ready to help reopen impacted airports following Hurricane Maria, and I am very gratified by the continued commitment to mission demonstrated by TSA employees across the country,” he said.

The TSA volunteers came from 20 airports around the country. The agency vowed to continue using local personnel and volunteers to help airports and airlines recover from the disaster.
The Hill”

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Spare change you forget at TSA checkpoints

All the nickels, dimes and quarters travelers leave behind at airport security checkpoints adds up to big bucks — enough that next time you forget your change after emptying your pockets, you might want to go back for it.

In fiscal year 2016, travelers left behind a record $867,812.39, according to a report from the Transportation Security Administration. That’s over $100,000 more than went unclaimed the previous year. Of that amount, nearly $80,000 was in foreign currency.

“TSA makes every effort to reunite passengers with items left at the checkpoint, however there are instances where loose change or other items are left behind and unclaimed,” TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said. “Unclaimed money, typically consisting of loose coins passengers remove from their pockets, is documented and turned into the TSA financial office.”

New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport ranked the highest for unclaimed money with $70,615. That was followed by Los Angeles International at $44,811.82. Among D.C. area airports, only Dulles International made the top 10 in unclaimed funds with $20,801.25.

National Airport travelers, however, weren’t far behind Dulles, leaving $18,753.31. And despite being the region’s busiest airport, travelers left only $5,946.50 at checkpoints at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport.

So where does all that spare change go? In 2005, Congress gave the TSA the authority to spend the money on security operations.

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Concerns over terrorism lead TSA to issue warning to trucking companies

The images are disturbing: cargo trucks plowing into crowds of people enjoying holiday street festivals and markets.

In recent years, these terrorist attacks have happened often — mostly in European countries — leaving dozens of people dead and hundreds injured.

Now, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration wants truck rental agencies to be more vigilant in efforts to prevent these attacks, releasing a report this week that outlines the increased threat of such incidents.

The report, titled “Vehicle ramming attacks: Threat landscape, indicators and countermeasures,” notes that in the last three years, at least 173 people have been killed and more than 700 wounded in 17 ramming attacks around the world. Within the six-page report, the TSA urges truck companies to report suspicious activity — for example, would-be renters asking about altering a truck — to law enforcement officials.

Moreover, the report warns that no community, “large or small, rural or urban, is immune to attacks of this kind by organized or ‘lone wolf’” attackers.

“Terrorist organizations overseas have advocated conducting vehicle ramming attacks — using modified or unmodified motor vehicles — against crowds, buildings and other vehicles,” the TSA writes in the report. “Such attacks could target locations where large numbers of people congregate, including parades and other celebratory gatherings, sporting events, entertainment venues or shopping centers.”

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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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Avoid Long Airport Lines, Queue Up At Your Local TSA ‘Precheck’ Office

(CBS) — With the long lines at airports dominating the news, there is now a rush to sign up for the federal service that can move you more quickly through the crowds.

But as CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports, you may need some patience to sign up for TSA “Precheck.”

There was a constant flow of traffic Monday at the TSA’s Precheck office in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood. More than half said they were walk-ins.

One woman said reports of log jams at O’Hare spurred her to come in, ahead of a trip later this spring.

Mid-June is the earliest appointment if you book online, because of the rush to sign up for TSA Precheck, by those who either saw or experienced the horrors of long lines at Midway and O’Hare.

Signing up means you could avoid the long lines. For $85, you get your fingerprints taken – and a TSA number that gets you a coveted checkmark on your boarding pass.

You then get to move more quickly through airports to catch your flight.

But to get the precious pass, be prepared to wait.

TSA Precheck means not only do you avoid those long lines, but you can also keep your shoes and jacket on and leave three-ounce liquids and laptops in your bag.

The $85 fee covers a five-year subscription.

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Passengers Stranded At O’Hare Airport Due To Long TSA Lines

“Security lines at airports in Chicago and across the country are longer than ever. Now airlines are fighting back.

About 450 American Airlines passengers trying to fly out of O’Hare International Airport Sunday night couldn’t get to the gate on time. Airport employees offered them cots to sleep on overnight.

“Got here two and a half hours before my flight and security took two to three (hours) to get through,” said Kevin Revis, a stranded traveler.

“I’d never seen this before. Completely unexpected,” said Adnan Ahmed, who was also stuck in Chicago.

Video shot at 5 a.m. Monday shows hundreds of passengers slowly making their way through an hours-long security line in Terminal 3 at O’Hare.

ABC7 Eyewitness News viewer Kim Adele Serritos shared video of lines at Midway International Airport Monday morning on the ABC7 Chicago Facebook page.

American Airlines spokesperson Leslie Scott said over the next week, the company is deploying its own employees to help TSA workers with non-security functions.

“(They will be) standing in line, telling people to take shoes off, take electronics out and bag of liquids out,” Scott said.

The chronically understaffed Transportation Security Administration promises to hire 800 new screeners next month and offer more overtime opportunities for existing employees.

Until the TSA can get more screeners hired and trained, travelers’ only relief is the paid pre-check program.

Otherwise, airlines are recommending passengers arrive two or three hours before their flights are scheduled to depart.

Revis said he’s taking no chances Monday. He got in line four hours early.

Airlines also asked passengers to tweet about how frustrated they are using the hashtag #ihatethewait to put pressure on the TSA to fix this problem.”

Port Authority Warns TSA It Will Be Replaced By Private Security Force Over Long Lines At Airports

“The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is giving the Transportation Security Administration an ultimatum on dealing with long lines at airports.

CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported the Port Authority is warning the TSA in a letter it will be replaced by a private security force.

“We can no longer tolerate the continuing inadequacy of the TSA passenger services,” the letter reads.

The letter states the long waits at John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International Airports are “prompting angry complaints from passengers, terminal operators, and airlines alike … citing inconvenience, delayed flights and missed flight connections.”

“Passengers have been waiting up to an hour in lines at security checkpoints.

“They’re pretty long,” one traveler said.

Travel expert Peter Trabucco said travelers should not be concerned if airports turn to private security forces.

“Not really, because the processes and the protocols are all set up,” Trabucco said. “They’re going to be doing the same, that’s why the lines are all long because of terrorism.”

Trabucco said the goal of privatization is to cut costs.

“Time would tell if it would work or not. It depends on the company, it depends on how serious they are. Some are good, some are bad,” Trabucco said. “I still feel the TSA itself has a very, very tough job.”

The TSA said it “will directly respond to the Port Authority.”

However, the agency is trying to get more money to hire extra screeners and pushing “pre-check,” a program passengers can sign up for that screens them before they travel.

“I can keep my shoes on. I believe I can keep my computer in my backpack. It’s easier with children,” traveler Denise Suri said.

Private security companies have already taken over 22 airports, including in San Francisco and Kansas City.”

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