Just in time for the recent busy holiday travel season, American and United both launched automated screening lanes in order to help lessen the bottleneck in the TSA checkpoints, a serious problem travelers faced in summer 2016.
The two airlines followed the lead of Delta, which partnered with TSA in May 2016 at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. Delta underwrote $1 million dollars of the total TSA investment to bring the automation to the Atlanta airport.
The automated screening lanes feature the following innovations:
- Stainless steel countertops that enable several passengers to place their items in bins simultaneously;
- Automated conveyor belts that draw bins into the X-ray machines, and return them to the front of the queue;
- Bags identified as a potential threat are automatically pushed to a separate area to allow bins behind it to continue through the screening process uninterrupted;
- Property bins that are 25 percent larger than the bins in standard screening lanes in order to accommodate roller bags; Read more
Who hasn’t thought while standing in a slow-moving TSA security line, “Couldn’t somebody do this better than the federal government?” There actually is somebody, and there may be a way for your airport to replace the TSA with a private firm.
And after a very hectic travel summer, with reports of up-to-three-hour waits at some security lines, a lot of people started asking that question.
A relatively unknown program, actually operated by the TSA, called the Partnership Screening Program, allows the federal agency to receive bids from private security firms to replace the TSA’s services at the nation’s municipal airports. The private contractors provide screening under federal oversight, and must offer similar wages and benefits for their employees.
In fact, the option to fire the TSA dates back to the inception of the agency in 2002 after the September 11 terrorist attacks. At that time, five airports were allowed to contract with private firms as a way for Congress to assess and compare its approach with one offered by the private sector: San Francisco; Kansas City, MO; Rochester, NY; Tupelo, MS; and Jackson, WY.
Kansas City and San Francisco’s international airports were the only two major airports in that original five. But since then, 17 other regional airports around the country have fired the TSA and, with the exception of Kansas City, contracted with Trinity Technology Group, a Department of Homeland Security Safety Act certified company, for their security screening process. Kansas City works with Akal Security.
Travel was pretty difficult for some this past summer, as the TSA struggled to clear long lines at the security checkpoints. Travelers faced waits as long as three hours, causing them to miss their flights. The ordeal was eventually sorted, and people were able to get to their destinations as usual.
But this problem could be avoided, said the TSA and a few Washington lawmakers, if the airlines would just get rid of their checked baggage fees.
Jeh Johnson, the head of Homeland Security, and TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger asked the nation’s airlines to consider waiving or eliminating baggage fees in order to encourage more people to check bags and alleviate the security process clogged by travelers who only have carry-ons.
Not surprisingly, the airlines said no. They’ve had these fees in place since 2007, and it’s how they have been able to remain profitable. How can you do your part to keep the security line moving? Here are some simple, practical reminders to consider:
- Apply for TSA PreCheck. Even if you only travel once a year, at $85 for five years’ certification, you’ll eliminate most of the hassle that comes with the regular TSA lines: you won’t have to take off your shoes or jacket, unpack your toiletries, or remove your laptop.
- Make sure your toiletries are the standard 3.4 ounces and that the bag you carry them in is transparent and accessible, like a kitchen reclosable bag.
- Wear slip-on shoes so you don’t hold up the line untying shoes or unzipping boots. If you can’t do this, loosen the laces or unzip the zipper so that you can ease your feet out quickly. Read more
Visitors entering the United States may be asked to provide US Customs and Border Protection with their social media account information. This would be a new question added to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and I-94W forms.
We’re not sure how we feel about that.
On the one hand, these forms already supply information about citizenship, residency, passport, and contact information. With this, it’s easy enough to get social media information. Just go to your favorite social network, and search for the person’s name.
According to the Office of the Federal Register, a publication that lists proposed and final administrative regulations, this data would be used for “screening alien visitors for potential security risks to national security and determining admissibility to the United States.”
What’s the worst part of the travel experience? Take an informal poll and you’ll find “going through security” to be in the top three, if not number one. Since 9/11, Americans have developed strategies for removing their shoes, unloading their laptops, and shrinking their toiletries to three ounce travel sizes in order to streamline their security screening.
What if you could skip all that rigamarole and stroll through security without removing anything? You can, and The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) wants to tell you how. While many frequent business travelers are familiar with Precheck, TSA is on a campaign to get more travelers to sign up.
The process is relatively simple: you fill out a form online and schedule a brief, in-person interview at the airport where you present the required documentation (a passport, driver’s license, or birth certificate) and are fingerprinted. The $85 fee provides Precheck security clearance for five years.
Remember how impressed you were the first time you saw an airport faucet that turned on automatically when you waved your hand in front of them? (Don’t pretend you weren’t!)
It’s almost shocking how far airports have come technologically since then. Case in point: Gatwick Airport’s chief information officer, Michael Ibbitson, recently told FutureTravelExperience.com about the new technology that’s not just wowing passengers, but also streamlining the passenger experience and making travel safer for everyone. Let’s take a look at some of the technological advances Gatwick has made.
Speeding Up Bag Check
Automated bag check and check-in are technologies well on their way to mass adoption at this point, but Gatwick is aiming to make them more efficient than ever.
EasyJet has been testing a bag drop system fueled by Phase 5 Technology at its Gatwick hub. According to Ibbitson, the average passenger took 76 seconds to process — the goal is to get passengers through in 45 — so they’re tweaking the system, working toward maximum efficiency.
One of the major headaches of air travel, no matter how far you’re traveling, is getting through security. Gatwick is attempting to make security checkpoints smoother by automating them — the systems installed in 2012 have cut wait time to an average of a mere 107 seconds — and installing Security Max lanes that will enable even more passengers to prepare for the checkpoint at once.
Iris Scanning Technology
The wildest technology we read about: Biometrics as a single passenger token. The gist is that when you check in at the airport and drop your bag off, a machine also scans your iris — an identity marker that’s almost impossible to forfeit — and all your passenger information, from baggage tracking to your passport and boarding pass, is encoded into the scan.
A single scan of your iris is all it takes to move you through the rest of the travel process throughout the airport — and even at your destination.
According to the Future Travel Experience post, this technology is well within reach — it’s the widespread implementation of the technology at airports worldwide that will take some time.
What technology would you most like to see implemented in your favorite airport? The sky’s the limit, so they say — leave a comment with your loftiest technology dreams.
Ever wish you could cut through those pesky airport security lines… without angering the TSA or your fellow travelers? You may be surprised to learn that there’s a legal (and polite!) way to do it, one that savvy travelers have known about for years. And we’re going to let you in on the secret.
While standing in the airport security line, you’ve likely noticed travelers entering special lines marked “Pre-Check” and zipping right through airport security and simply assumed those lucky travelers were TSA, airline, or government employees. They’re actually people who have pre-qualified for rapid screening, and can pass through the security line without waiting. In reality, many travelers qualify for the TSA’s Pre-Check program and don’t even realize it.
What is Pre-Check?Pre-Check is an expedited screening program created and managed by the TSA, in cooperation with US Customs and Border Protection and a select group of major airlines. Participants in the Pre-Check program are allowed to use dedicated Pre-Check lanes at participating airports. In most cases, program participants are allowed to pass through security without removing their shoes, outerwear or belt, and typically do not need to remove electronics or liquid items from their carry-on bag.
How can I participate?
The Pre-Check program is currently available to passengers traveling on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America from participating airports. Currently, the program is eligible to frequent travelers who receive an invitation to opt-in from one of the participating airlines.
Travelers can also participate in the Pre-Check program by registering for a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) account and enrolling in one of the CBP eligible programs via the Global Entry program. Once you’ve filled out the online application, you’ll need to pay a $100 fee and schedule an appointment at one of the program enrollment centers across the United States. During your appointment, you’ll be fingerprinted, have your passport verified, and be interviewed.
Don’t want to enroll?
If you’re looking for a way to bypass the long security line without enrolling in the Pre-Check program, fear not – you still have another option. For an additional fee (typically between $20 – $40) some airlines offer a VIP security lane that allows passengers to speed through a dedicated security line and board the plane before other passengers.
If you travel more than a few times a year, you may find it’s worth the time and effort to participate in the Pre-Check program. The time you save could end up being several hours worth per year, depending on where and when you typically fly.
- TSA Expanding PreCheck Screening Program at John Wayne Airport (ktla.com)
- PreCheck Cuts Airport Lines (foxnews.com)
- What types of gluten-free food will airport security allow in your carry-on? (glutenfabulous.org)
In this age of global terrorism, most air travelers recognize and accept the need for enhanced security measures.
Let’s hope so. For, in addition to the many indignities you endure at airline security checkpoints, your behavior is now being “monitored.”
As reported on 4/27/11 by Kate Auletta of AOL Travel News, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has deployed “Behavioral Indicator Officers” in 161 U.S. airports to monitor passenger’s antics while in security lines. The particular behaviors they are trained to spot include a cocky attitude, verbal expressions of displeasure at long lines, and fearful or impatient looks.
Auletta indicated that ” … the immigration agent who stopped the so-called 20th 9/11 hijacker recalled that his behavior was ‘arrogant.’ The TSA modeled this program off that argument and other conversations with would-be hijackers.”
On their website, the TSA describes the Behavior Detection Officer’s duties as “screening travelers for involuntary physical and physiological reactions that people exhibit in response to a fear of being discovered. TSA recognizes that an individual exhibiting some of these behaviors does not automatically mean a person has terrorist or criminal intent. Individuals exhibiting specific observable behaviors may be referred for additional screening at the checkpoint to include a hand-wanding, limited pat down, and physical inspection of one’s carry-on baggage.”
Predictably, many civil liberties advocates strongly oppose this practice, and question its effectiveness. Michael German of the ACLU called it “anti-American.” And national security analyst Peter Bergen told CNN that “it doesn’t make any sense to me.”
However, while the politicians and security experts continue to hammer this out, it also means that everyday travelers will have to put a check on their impatience and their annoyance at waiting in longer lines. While it might make you feel better to voice your frustration, just remember that it may be misinterpreted, and give you some unwanted extra attention.
- TSA ‘Behavioral Officers’ Monitor Airport Passengers (VIDEO) (huffingtonpost.com)
With the increasing popularity of carry-on bags — both due to their convenience and the fees airlines now charge for checked bags — the passenger screening process has become very time consuming.
Therefore, it’s more important than ever to prepare properly. Here are several proven ways to get through security checkpoints quickly:
- Make sure you comply with the TSA’s “3-1-1” rule, which allows travelers to carry-on one quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag containing 3.4 ounce (100 ml) bottles of the gels and liquids. Simply place the quart-sized bag in the screening bin which airport security X-rays. If you don’t use a 3-1-1 bag to separate your liquids, you risk having security personnel hand-inspect your carry-on which wastes time and could result in some items being confiscated.
- Always use a Travelpro “Checkpoint Friendly” computer case when traveling with a laptop. Instead of having to handle your computer before and after scanning, you simply unzip the back of the case, lay it flat on the conveyer, zip up the case once it’s passed through the scanner, and proceed to your gate. These highly engineered cases feature a padded sleeve compartment which accommodates most 17″ laptops and — though they hold it during the X-ray process — they meet the Transportation Security Administration’s regulations regarding computers not being in direct contact with other objects while being scanned.
- Pack all metal objects (watch, cell phone, loose change, etc.) in your Travelpro rollaboard, which eliminates your need to handle them at the security checkpoint.
- Be sure to pack light, so you minimize the amount of luggage you must pass through security.
- Always wear “slip on” shoes. Nothing slows you down more than having to untie and retie your shoes while being jostled by fellow travelers.
- Survey the gate check lines, and avoid getting behind groups likely to take excessive time getting through the checkpoint (mothers traveling with small children, for example).
- If you’re traveling with children, make sure they’re dressed and packed properly. A few minutes of pre-trip planning can eliminate lengthy checkpoint delays.
Long security lines are undoubtedly here to stay. But by following these simple guidelines, you can reduce your time at airport checkpoints by 25% or more.
Photo credit: mrkathika (Flickr)
The convenience of Travelpro luggage is no longer the only reason why more and more travelers are carrying on their bags.
The fees most airlines charge for checked bags are also contributing to this trend. So much so that security checkpoints are becoming overwhelmed with passengers shepherding their carry-ons through the scanners.
According to Christine Negroni’s article in the March 31 issue of the Miami Herald (Huge Hike In Carry-Ons Clogging Airport Security), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) estimated that passengers carried on 59 million more bags in 2010 than in 2009. This “luggage deluge” worries the U.S. Travel Association, which reported that airport screeners cannot keep up and that overall security could be diminished.
Congress may become involved. In a recent hearing, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was asked by Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu whether the airlines should be directed to contribute some of their bag fee revenue (over $6 billion in the past four years) to provide additional security.
As the debate over staffing, equipment and funding continues, Negroni reported that TSA spokesman Greg Soule denied that security was being compromised. “The number of bags brought to the checkpoint may affect passenger wait times,” Soule said, “but not the level of security we provide, which is our priority.”
Checked bags fees have become the airlines largest source of ancillary revenue, and a key contributor to their profitability in this age of $100+ barrel oil. Only two major airlines, JetBlue and Southwest, don’t currently charge for checked bags, a fact they heavily advertise in order to win business.
So how could the government and the airlines work together to alleviate the bottleneck at security checkpoint lines?
According to Negroni , the U.S. Travel Association suggested that the Department of Transportation require airlines to include one checked bag in their base ticket price, and strictly enforce the number and size of bags passengers are allowed to carry on.
The Airline Transport Association quickly dismissed this proposal, saying it “diminishes customer choice and competitive differentiation among carriers.”
The issue likely won’t be resolved soon. In the meantime – whether you’re checking your bag or carrying it on – make sure it’s a Travelpro Rollaboard.