Officials at O’Hare International Airport are recommending passengers arrive three hours before their flight. That’s after hundreds of passengers missed their flights Sunday night — because they couldn’t get through security in time.
Over the last three years, the Transportation Security Administration and Congress cut the number of front-line screeners by about 10 percent. On Tuesday, TSA sent 58 more screeners to O’Hare to relieve some of the tension.
Eddie Palacios, president of Chicago TSA officers Local 777, spoke to WBEZ’s Melba Lara about the situation from a screener’s point of view. He says lines are growing now because flight loads always increase in May and June, but also says there bigger issues at play.
On low morale among TSA security officers
“We are definitely overworked because we feel we are understaffed,” Palacios said, adding: “We’re mandated to do overtime. When you’re mandated to do overtime and you have prior things that you have planned, how much are you really giving the screening process? And the fact that within the last 8 years we haven’t really had a serious raise.”
On the TSA’s turnover rate
“We lose approximately 100 screeners a week, I’m talking nationally. We lose a lot of new hires because they can’t deal with the pressures, and with the traveling public, and with the mandates that are on us; and they get discouraged.”
On whether the 58 screeners will actually make an impact at O’Hare (the bump equals about one extra screener per shift)
“[Local management] is increasing part time hours to full time hours temporarily so they can fill in the gap. When they said 58 screeners, 58 screeners was just part of the solution to process the flight loads.”
On what he wants to say on behalf of TSA security officers
“We do the best job we can to screen and to ensure that the traveling public is safe. We ask for patience, we ask for understanding and more importantly we ask them to actually reach out to their congressmen.”