American Airlines opens automated screening lanes at O'Hare

CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) - American Airlines has opened two new security screening lanes it says will reduce wait times by 30 percent for its passengers at O’Hare International Airport.

The new screening lanes, opened last week, 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, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

The new technology will benefit American Airlines passengers in Terminal 3 and is part of a joint plan by the airline and the Transportation Security Administration. 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 TSA worker will still be on hand to review images of the contents of bags on a monitor. And others will be on hand to conduct searches.

But the technological advances will do away with the need for a TSA agent to handle empty bins, said Scott, noting that the new machines are the first of their kind in Chicago.

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.

Waits at Terminal 3 averaged less than 20 minutes Sunday afternoon, according the Chicago Department of Aviation website.

The automated lanes come 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.

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