TSA joins Chicago Department of Aviation to open new automated screening lanes at Midway

New automated screening lanes at Midway to increase efficiency in screening times ahead of a busy holiday travel season
Local Press Release
Thursday, November 16, 2017

CHICAGO – Officials with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) joined the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) today to debut new automated screening lanes at Midway International Airport. The TSA and CDA have been working collaboratively on the addition of these new lanes as part of Midway’s security checkpoint modernization project as well as in preparation for the busy Thanksgiving holiday travel period.

This state-of-the-art checkpoint technology enhances security efficiency while decreasing the amount of time travelers spend during the security screening process. Passengers departing both of Chicago’s airports for the holidays this year can expect to see these new lanes at the TSA security checkpoint, with similar technology installed at O’Hare International Airport last year.

“The security of the traveling public is TSA’s primary focus and the Chicago Department of Aviation is an important partner in that mission,” said TSA Federal Security Director for Midway Kevin McCarthy. “This technology allows us to improve the passenger experience for travelers at Midway while maintaining the highest level of security.”

The new technology comes online in time for TSA’s forecast of a busy Thanksgiving travel season, with estimates of 2.4 million passengers per day expected to pass through TSA checkpoints nationwide leading up to Thanksgiving. In Chicago, on each of the peak travel days of the Thanksgiving season, approximately 90,000 travelers will be screened at O’Hare and more than 28,000 will be screened at Midway.

“Partnering with the TSA, Midway will continue to offer a safe and secure travel experience for all of our passengers heading out or returning home for the holidays this season,” said CDA Commissioner Ginger S. Evans. “The Department of Aviation is pleased to bring forward investments like these that will ensure continued efficiency in security screening for our passengers today and as we prepare for growing traveler volumes in the years ahead.”

This investment at Midway will support more efficient screening processes at the checkpoint using automated features that allow officers to oversee more capacity while maintaining the highest level of security. In addition to added technology to enhance the screening experience, the construction of a new 80,000 square foot security pavilion set for completion in 2019 will double hourly screening capacity and further improve efficient screening times for all Midway travelers.

The automated screening lanes offer several new features designed to improve the screening process for travelers going through the security checkpoint including:

  • Stainless steel countertops designed specifically to enable several passengers to place their items in bins simultaneously;
  • Automated conveyor belts that move bins into the X-ray machine tunnel and return the bins to the front of the security checkpoint;
  • Automatic diversion of any carry-on bag that may contain a prohibited item; this diversion to a separate location allows other bins containing other travelers’ belongings to continue through the screening process uninterrupted;
  • Bins that are 25 percent larger than a typical bin and are able to hold a roll-aboard bag;
  • Unique Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags that are attached to each bin, allowing for additional accountability of a traveler’s carry-on property as they move throughout the security screening process;
  • Cameras that capture photographic images of the contents of each bin and are linked side-by-side to the X-ray image of a carry-on bag’s contents.

The Thanksgiving travel period begins Tuesday, Nov. 21 and concludes Monday, Nov. 27. CDA joins the TSA in urging its passengers to practice smart travel tips, recommending that passengers arrive at the airport with sufficient time for parking, check-in, security screening and boarding. Passengers are also encouraged to visit flychicago.com to receive text messages on average wait times, information on flight times, and real-time parking lot status updates.

TSA Travel Tips

TSA is prepared for the Thanksgiving travel season, with the Wednesday before the holiday expected to be one of the busiest travel days of the year. Nationwide, the number of passengers expected to fly this Thanksgiving season is estimated to be high, with more than 2.4 million passengers per day expected to pass through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints each day leading up to Thanksgiving.

The TSA offers its passenger preparedness tips year round that can have a significant impact on wait times at security checkpoints nationwide. To facilitate the security screening process, travelers should arrive at the airport early. It is recommended that travelers arrive two hours in advance of their domestic flight and three hours prior to an international flight to ensure that they have time to park their cars or return rental cars, check their bags with their airline, get their boarding pass and hit the restroom—all before heading to the security checkpoint.

Some helpful tools and travel tips for the airport security checkpoint include:

  • Apply for TSA Pre✓® or other trusted travel programs like Global Entry, NEXUS, or SENTRI. To find the trusted traveler program that best suits your travel needs, use the DHS trusted traveler comparison tool. These programs help improve security and provide a more convenient travel experience by affording travelers access to TSA Pre✓® expedited screening lanes. Travelers using the TSA Pre✓® lane do not need to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets at more than 180 U.S. airports. Find the program that best suits your travel needs. To get additional information about TSA Pre✓®, visit the frequently asked questions page on the TSA website.
  • Tweet or Message AskTSA. Issues receiving TSA Pre✓® on your boarding pass? Unsure if an item is allowed through security? Get live assistance by tweeting your questions and comments to @AskTSA or via Facebook Messenger on weekdays from 8 a.m. - 10 p.m. and on weekends/holidays from 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. You can also reach the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673.
  • Prepare for security when packing. Put large liquids, gels, creams and aerosols, into checked bags such as shampoo, conditioner, suntan lotion, shaving cream and antiperspirant. If you’ve only got a carry-on bag, make sure all of your liquids follow the 3-1-1 rule outlined below. And it’s important to make sure that you’ve got no prohibited items in your luggage. Check TSA’s web site feature “Can I bring my ________?” at tsa.gov. Type in an item and find out immediately if you can bring it in your carry-on bag, checked bag, either or neither.
  • Follow the 3-1-1 liquids rule for your carry-on bag. When packing a carry-on bag, it is important to remember that liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes must be 3.4 ounces or less and all bottles must fit in a single quart size plastic bag and placed in a bin for screening. This includes sun block and tanning sprays for those who are travelling to sunny destinations. Let the TSA officer know right away if you’re traveling with larger quantities of medically-necessary liquid medications or breast milk or formula for an infant as those can be screened separately.
  • Be ready when you enter the checkpoint line: Have an acceptable ID and boarding pass out of your wallet and ready to hand to the TSA officer. Once you get to the divesting tables, remove laptops, any electronics larger than a cell phone and the 3-1-1 compliant liquids bag, from carry-on baggage and place those items in a checkpoint bin.
  • Consider minimizing items that you wear to the airport such as bulky jewelry, scarves, hair accessories, large belts and other bulky items as these articles are likely to require additional screening. Remove all items from your pockets and put them into one of your carry-on bags so you won’t lose them.
  • Check the bins: Equally important, travelers are reminded to check the bins when collecting all belongings after going through screening and before leaving the checkpoint screening area. Often, travelers leave behind laptops, wallets, ID, phones and loose change.
  • The TSA Contact Center is available to answer questions by email and phone at 1-866-289-9673. Staff is available from 8 a.m. - 11 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. weekends/holidays; and an automated service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Call TSA Cares. Travelers or families of passengers with disabilities and/or medical conditions may call the TSA Cares helpline toll free at 855-787-2227 at least 72 hours prior to flying with any questions about screening policies, procedures and to find out what to expect at the security checkpoint as well as arrange for assistance at the checkpoint.

As a reminder, public awareness is key for supporting TSA’s security efforts. Travelers are encouraged to report suspicious activities, and remember, If You See Something, Say Something™. For individuals traveling abroad, please check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Know Before You Go page to learn about required documentation.