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Travel Troubles

By Scott Smith in Miscellaneous on Dec 21, 2005 5:22PM

While planes are managing to stay on the runaway this week, problems of a less frightening and more mundane sort are starting to pile up at Chicago's airports as the holiday travel season begins.

2005_12_21_santagoboom.jpgDelays began Saturday as a lack of adequate staffing and several cancelled flights caused delays at O’Hare’s Terminal 1, home to United Airlines and Lufthansa. Check-in lines were so long that some customers were waiting outside in the cold until buses arrived to keep people warm while they waited.

This morning, the Sun-Times reports on Transportation Security Administration data from the same terminals that show wait times up to 40 minutes at some checkpoints, while others clocked in with times as low as three minutes (TSA’s goal is an average of ten minutes). United plans on adding more signage to its terminals to indicate where the shorter lines are, but these won’t go up until the end of the month. You’d think that’d be the kind of thing to take care of before the busiest travel season of the year, but you’d be wrong.

Chicagoist just got a call from a roving correspondent who reports it took her 30 minutes to go through security. Lines are long and “people are already grumpy” (even with all the free music?). Chicagoist’s correspondent also reports that American Airlines requires its passengers to check-in at least 40 minutes before a flight’s scheduled departure or the passenger will not be allowed to board. Unfortunately for her, she’s speaking from experience. Fortunately for her, the airport bar is open.

If you haven’t heard by now, don’t bring wrapped packages in either your carry-on or checked luggage; they’re subject to search. But both Midway and O’Hare are offering free gift-wrapping services in addition to other festivities (PDF).

TSA has a variety of travel tips here and even features a handy way to check the average wait times at U.S. airports (though average is pretty much out the window at this time of year).