American Airlines and United Airlines have opened automated security screening lanes in an effort to reduce wait times for passengers at O’Hare International Airport.
American, which showed off its automated lanes Monday, says the new lanes will reduce wait times by 30 percent.
Chicago-based United announced Monday the opening of its redesigned TSA Precheck security checkpoint and the addition of three automated screening lanes in Terminal 1 at O’Hare. The airline said it is the first U.S.-based carrier to have automated screening lanes at multiple airports.
American’s new screening lanes, opened last week in Terminal 3, automate tasks normally performed by people such as returning property bins to the beginning of the line and diverting bags that need further inspection to allow bins behind it to continue uninterrupted. Automated lanes will be added this fall at several other American Airlines hub airports.
The airline is investing $26 million in the new equipment, said airline spokeswoman Leslie Scott.
The new lanes are not completely automated. A Transportation Security Administration worker will be on hand to review images of the contents of bags on a monitor. And others will be on hand to conduct searches.
Other new features include bins that are 25 percent larger than bins on regular screening lanes; electronic tags on each bin that allow tracking items as they go through screening; and cameras that match photos of the outside of a bag to the X-ray image of its contents. And travelers will no longer have to push their bins along rollers leading to the conveyor belt of the X-ray machine; the rollers will do that on their own.
The automated lanes will “enhance security effectiveness and efficiency, while improving the customer experience,” American Airlines Chief Operating Officer Robert Isom said in a statement.
United’s automated lanes allow up to five passengers fill bins at the same time and move through the process even if a bag or passenger needs additional screening.
“As the first and only U.S.-based airline to launch automated screening lanes in multiple airports, United continues its commitment to using the latest technology to meet the changing needs of our customers and improve the airport experience,” said Greg Hart, United’s executive vice president and chief operations officer.
The addition of automated screening lanes comes six months after long lines — caused by TSA staff cuts, tightened security measures and an increase in passengers — plagued security checkpoints at O’Hare.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Sen. Dick Durbin lobbied for and won additional screening officers and canine teams that alleviated the issue.