O’Hare Among First to Debut Automated Security

After months of issues plaguing Chicago’s Transport Security Administration (TSA), travelers flying American Airlines from O’Hare International Airport may soon find an easier travel process.

American Airlines will partner with TSA in the fall to install new automated technology designed to simplify security for travelers. The new technology will include multiple bag deposit stations, a simplified sorting system and cameras to take photos of the outside of bags to go with the X-ray capture.

TSA will also use larger luggage bins and automated belts to return bags to the screening line.

American Airlines estimates that the advanced features, which will also debut in Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles and Miami, will shave off 30 percent of fliers’ wait times, something that would benefit Loyola’s international students.

Shorter security lines could serve to balance the increased security measures facing Chicago and airports worldwide in the wake of terror bombings at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport on June 28.

CNN reported 44 deaths and more than 200 injuries in an attack by three suspects at the Turkish airport. The attack came a day after the U.S. Department of State issued a warning for U.S. citizens traveling to Turkey.

Additional safety measures for Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports include increased TSA K-9 unit patrols for the security lines, along with more Chicago Police Department patrols on the entrances and exits of the airports, reported CBS Chicago.

Although one Loyola student, Maria Blanco, flew into Detroit rather than Chicago from her time spent with the Mandala Dance Company in Rome on July 2, she said she could feel the increased tension both coming to and leaving the U.S. Blanco, 20, described an “anxiety-ridden” atmosphere at the Detroit airport when she left on June 23, with TSA security seeming more agitated and hurried than usual.

The rising junior said she was nervous about flying back from Rome after the Turkey bombing occurred.

“I hate flying … I hate it more than anything. When I am flying, those kind of things always cross my mind,” said Blanco, who is double majoring in dance and sociology. “It’s hard not to think about [possible scenarios] because it happened before.”

The high travel alert is only one of many recent issues troubling Chicago’s TSA. Travelers in Chicago and airports all across America withstood hours-long security lines in late May due to TSA understaffing. Wait times have since decreased; one Loyola student said she experienced a relatively painless departure.

Rising junior Julia Treichel left for a study abroad trip to Thailand on June 20 and described her experience at O’Hare as “surprisingly pleasant.”

Treichel, an education major, said she arrived at the airport four hours before her flight in anticipation of lines and spent the majority of that time waiting at the gate. Treichel said she found her Chicago departure to be smoother than her departures from airports in other countries.

“In comparison to past airports, O’Hare gets a five-star out of a five-star rating,” said Treichel, 20.

Blanco, however, said she had an extremely long wait when she flew to Las Vegas from O’Hare in March for spring break. She said she arrived at 3 a.m. for her 6 a.m. flight to an already-busy airport.

“Having to go to the airport already is a pain in the butt, but having to go to O’Hare is just ten times worse,” Blanco said.

Prior to the announcement of new security technology at O’Hare, Chicago’s TSA announced another change in its structure: Kathleen Petrowsky, federal security director of O’Hare, resigned on June 28 after nearly 40 years of service for TSA.

While she did not state a reason for leaving, ABC 7’s investigation team speculated that the TSA security problems were the driving force of Petrowsky’s departure.

The TSA press office thanked Petrowsky for her service but did not comment on the reason behind Petrowsky’s resignation in response to The PHOENIX’s request.

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