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On Sunday, November 30, the busiest travel day of the year, post-Thanksgiving travelers flying out of Chicago-Midway International Airport (MDW) found themselves stuck in a security line that stretched about one mile with wait times of 20-75 minutes, requiring the help of Chicago police officers to manage surrounding airport car and foot traffic.
The TSA now blames itself for this snafu, citing its failure to open security lanes until 4 am (30 minutes after the airport opened its ticket counters) and staffing levels that were lower than planned.
The security line ran across Midway’s main terminal, through the parking garage, and into a corridor leading to the airport’s CTA Orange Line station. Some waiting passengers measured the line at 1.2 miles, a number that was picked up by various media outlets, but the TSA contends that the distance to the CTA station is actually less than a half-mile.
The first flight of the day was scheduled on Southwest at 5:25 a.m., 90 minutes after the opening of security. Wait times for security hit their peak between 6-8 am, and most delays were cleared by 9:30 am, but in the meantime, many in line took to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to express their dismay, stoking ire as well as attention to the story.
The TSA will continue to look into what went wrong, but it’s fair to say that a better holiday season plan is needed at MDW, especially for those days when security employees fall sick or simply don’t show up to work. If you’re traveling through Chicago-Midway during Christmas or New Year’s, I wish you luck, patience and a reasonable wait time.
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