By Jon Hilkevitch
2:32 PM CDT, June 2, 2014
The TSA bench, a ubiquitous piece of metal airport furniture designed to make sitting intolerable for any longer than it takes to tie your shoes, is gone from one security checkpoint in the United Airlines terminal at O'Hare International Airport.
In its place are comfortable couches and wooden tables, wall art, soothing music and entertainment screens — alongside the Transportation Security Administration's normal screening operation.
The idea behind the revamped security checkpoint No. 3, located on the far end of the terminal near the glass-enclosed walkway to Terminal 2, is to make submitting to the security protocol a less stressful experience for travelers.
But there's more to it. The new lounge area also serves as an advertisement for the SpringHill Suites by Marriott hotel chain, which has deployed similar "comfort zones’" at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas and Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina.
Would a harried traveler really take the time to enjoy the setup, which is designed to reflect the style of a SpringHill Suites lobby?
"We are not expecting this to be a spot where people will congregate for long periods, but it does provide a level of comfort that is much more appealing than the hard benches or no benches," said Craig Fowler, senior director of SpringHill Suites brand marketing.
The staging resulted from a contract involving the hotel brand, SecurityPoint Media, the Chicago Department of Aviation and the TSA, officials said, adding that the city is receiving some of the advertising revenue.
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