Back in May, the security lines at O'Hare and Midway were out of control, prompting both airports to advise passengers to arrive at least three hours before their flights (up from the usual recommendation of two hours). Passengers at O'Hare were waiting an average of 105 minutes to get through security, leading to plenty of missed flights and lots of grumpy, stranded travelers. At the second busiest airport in the U.S., it was a sad state of affairs.
Now Mayor Rahm Emanuel is touting that peak Transportation Security Administration wait times have improved by more than 90 percent. In July, the average peak wait time was seven minutes at O'Hare and 10 minutes at Midway. According to a press release, Mayor Emanuel met with TSA and Homeland Security officials to secure additional screening officers and canine teams for Chicago's airports.
I can attest that security lines a O'Hare seem to have normalized—I flew out of the airport yesterday and made it through security in less than 15 minutes, even though I arrived expecting a much longer wait. The most noticeable improvements were more TSA officials offering guidance to passengers ("Laptops out, shoes off!") and an increased number of scanners and metal detectors in use.
While O'Hare and Midway will surely encounter some epic security lines during the busy holiday travel season, it's nice to know that you probably don't need to take three hours out of your schedule (two hours is still more than enough) just to ensure you'll catch your flight. And if you do miss your flight for some reason, at least there are plenty of ways to kill time in O'Hare.