Holiday air travelers get a break from long security lines

Travelers pass through a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at O'Hare International Airport, Friday, May 27, 2016, in Chicago. Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer vacations for many and a busy travel period, serves as a crucial test for the TSA. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

ATLANTA (AP) — Travelers who were dreading long airport security lines ahead of the Memorial Day weekend instead reported moving quickly through checkpoints Friday after authorities opened extra screening lanes and used bomb-sniffing dogs to give some passengers a break from removing their shoes.

“Wow. I mean, wow,” said Mike Saresky, who flew into Chicago from Philadelphia, where he breezed through airport security in 12 minutes and got to leave his shoes on. “I thought it was going to be a lot worse.”

As the busy summer travel season kicked off, the federal Transportation Security Administration tried to offer travelers some relief after weeks of slow-moving lines blamed on a shortage of TSA security officers.

At Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, known as the world’s busiest, all 16 security lanes at the main checkpoint were open Friday morning as a bomb-sniffing dog and its handler walked among waiting passengers. Wait times were slashed to less than 15 minutes, compared with backups of nearly an hour seen in recent weeks.

“All the natives were telling me, ‘Brace yourself,'” said Carl Pluim, who arrived at the Atlanta airport to fly home to Denver. “I left myself two hours before my flight, so I think I’ll be OK.”

The canine teams were dispatched at busier airports.

The dogs “have the ability to screen large groups of passengers for explosives, making the removal of shoes and laptops and such unnecessary,” TSA spokesman Mike England said.

The agency has 900 dog teams nationwide, England said. He declined to say which airports they were sent to for Memorial Day weekend.

Nationwide, AAA said it expected 2.6 million Americans to fly during the holiday weekend. That’s out of an anticipated 38 million domestic travelers, most of whom will probably drive to their destinations. AAA predicted 2016 would have the second-highest Memorial Day travel volume on record and the most since 2005.

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