O’Hare Airport to Travelers: Arrive 3 Hours Before Your Flight

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Chicago's biggest hub is urging flyers to get to the airport even earlier to avoid missing their flights because of the creeping security process.

If you think getting to the airport two hours before your scheduled flight time is bad, I hope you don’t plan to fly out of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Airport officials there are now urging flyers to arrive at the airport at least three hours early to give passengers more time to get through security.

That’s a full hour more than the Transportation Security Administration recommends for domestic flights. But with nearly 5,000 fewer TSA airport security screeners on the job than three years ago, long airport security lines are the rule rather than the exception.

And with the busy summer travel season on the horizon, the already dire airport security situation could get much, much worse.

Two U.S. senators are urging airlines to drop their checked-bag fees this summer to help speed up airport security checks, but it seems unlikely that airlines will bite since they typically blame the staggeringly long security lines on the TSA.

The TSA recently got congressional approval to use $34 million to hire roughly 800 new security officers and pay for more part-time workers and overtime for existing airport security screeners.

“But the union that represents security officers said that won’t solve the problem, and that TSA needs 6,000 additional full-time officers to address a shortfall that has come as airlines are experiencing an increase in passengers,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

On Sunday, nearly 450 American Airlines customers missed their flights at O’Hare due to security wait times of more than two hours, according to the Tribune. Some of those passengers were forced to spend the night in the airport after they missed the last flight of the day.

Since February, roughly 4,500 American Airlines passengers have missed their flights at O’Hare due to long security lines, according to CNN Money.

“The extreme delays at security screening in Chicago airports reflects poor planning and inadequate federal funding,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told the Tribune.

But until the airport security gridlock improves, you may want to follow O’Hare’s recommendation of getting to the airport three hours before your scheduled flight time. Bring a good book.

What’s your latest experience with airport security? What do you think needs to be done to improve the situation? Share in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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