Faster airport security lines being tested

12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, March 30, 2008
By SUZANNE MARTA / The Dallas Morning News
[email protected]

The Transportation Security Administration is testing a new approach to get folks through airport checkpoints faster.

FILE 1997/Staff photo
The Transportation Security Administration is testing ways to speed up security checkpoints. It's a simple idea that is – at least in initial tests – having a big impact: have expert travelers who know the drill go through one line; folks who have a good idea of what they're supposed to do, but may not fly often, go through a second line; and families with kids or people who need more time or special assistance, through a third.

The pilot "Diamond Lanes" program takes a cue from ski resorts, which designate green circles for beginners, blue squares for intermediate users and black diamonds for experts.

The program initially launched at airports in Denver and Salt Lake City and recently was rolled out to include ones in Boston; Orlando, Fla.; and Spokane, Wash.

"We wanted to make it less stressful and more user-friendly," said Andrea McCauley, a TSA spokeswoman for the southwest region.

Travelers undergo the same screening process no matter which lane they're in, and they decide what level of assistance they need.

Ms. McCauley said the ski resort-style diamond ratings may be tweaked as the program moves into warmer destinations, but the concept will remain the same.

Preliminary results for the program have been positive. Checkpoints in test airports have been able to handle more travelers in the same amount of time.

Ms. McCauley, who admits she's found herself scrambling at the checkpoint on trips when traveling with her two young daughters, said having lines that target families helps ease anxiety because you don't have fellow travelers getting impatient behind you.

"It's not just about wait times, it's also about calming down the checkpoint and making it a better screening experience for everyone," she said.

The TSA is reviewing where to expand the program next. Ms. McCauley said she couldn't say when Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas Love Field may be added.

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