A three-week closure of a security checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has begun, and could cause even longer lines to get through screening.
Lines in the domestic terminal Thursday morning stretched through the atrium. Such lines have become a common occurrence at the world’s busiest airport in recent months, with waits often a half-hour long.
Update: Long security lines in Atlanta on first Monday since the south terminal checkpoint was closed
The Atlanta airport’s Terminal South security checkpoint is closed as of Thursday morning to re-engineer two lanes with a new system that is aimed at speeding the Transportation Security Administration screening process. The South checkpoint isn’t expected to reopen until May 24.
In the interim, even more passengers will be sent to the busy main security checkpoint. Staff from the closed checkpoint will be added to the main security checkpoint, which could help to move lines faster.
TSA officials still recommend travelers get to the airport terminal two hours before their flight.
Lines could get even longer on Friday and during the huge Monday morning rush of business travelers at Hartsfield-Jackson. Security checkpoint wait times at the Atlanta airport during busy holiday and peak periods already reach up to an hour long.
International travelers should use the international terminal entrance to the airport, which has its own security checkpoint.
In a statement Wednesday, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said he and TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger “are acutely aware of the significant increase in travelers and longer wait times at airports, and their projected growth over the summer.”
TSA is adding about 120 workers at Hartsfield-Jackson for a 10 percent increase in staffing. And the agency is working with airlines including Delta, which plans to offer workers to help manage lines leading up to the checkpoint and to move bins for re-use in the security lanes.
Johnson said he has also called on Congress to reallocate funding to pay for overtime and staffing needs during peak periods at busy airports.
Airports Council International, an industry group, welcomed the statement from Johnson, but also said TSA should take more action to “provide relief for frustrated passengers while still maintaining the highest level of security.”
Among the airport association’s recommendations were that TSA ensure “consistent and predictable operation hours” for its trusted traveler PreCheck lanes to alleviate long lines.