Hartsfield-Jackson's Ben DeCosta Responds to Clear Members

A security checkpoint at Hartsfield Photo courtesy of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport

Ben DeCosta, the general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, has responded to Clear registered traveler members who were urged to contact him by CEO Steve Brill over the facility's decision to defer installing RT lines. Below is the letter he sent explaining his decision to expand existing security lanes.

Dear _______:

Thank you for your letter to Mayor Franklin in support of the early implementation of the Registered Traveler Program (RT). You are not alone; we have received numerous e-mails and my inbox is full.

I want to tell you why we think we should delay its start up as we improve the performance of the Security Checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson, the world’s busiest airport.

Steve Brill is an excellent advocate for the program, and I admire his creativity in producing a valuable product to CLEAR members. However, Steve’s job and mission are different from mine. He is striving to shorten the trip, reduce the hassle and increase the satisfaction of his members. I too am aligned with Steve, but my scope includes the millions of passengers who use Hartsfield-Jackson and all the airlines that serve them.

We like RT and decided initially to pilot it here because it promised to:

1. Reduce the wait times for ALL passengers as it sped its members through the checkpoint.
2. Make the trip through security screening predictable.
3. Eliminate the hassle of taking laptop computers from their cases and removing shoes and jackets.
4. Add additional resources to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) by funding additional federal screening staff and equipment at added screening lanes.

Regrettably, only some of these benefits are now available. We hope that before long these promises will materialize.

During peak periods, we have experienced unacceptable delays here. We are committed—in partnership with the TSA and the airlines—to eliminating them by:

1. Investing in our infrastructure and building 10 new lanes in a very productive configuration at a cost of $25 million. With this project, six unproductive lanes will be decommissioned.

2. Full staffing of all required lanes with TSA personnel to establish a standard of performance that will enable travelers to predict the amount of time they will spend at security.

3. Providing additional assistance to travelers who want and need it.

4. Reorganizing the reconfigured checkpoint to increase the number of passengers processed per hour. More experienced travelers will be separated from less experienced travelers, speeding up the process for everyone.

Thus, we believe we have developed a multi-prong solution to security delays at Hartsfield-Jackson that will benefit ALL passengers. We also plan to secure the most advanced x-ray and screening technology available.

With all of this in mind, we think it is more prudent to wait until we have completed construction, brought in newer, more technologically-advanced equipment, and implemented enhanced service programs before we move toward a decision. Then, we believe we can more effectively reevaluate the need for RT and make the appropriate choice by determining the extent of the benefits of such a program.

In the meantime, I have talked to Steve, and we agreed to discuss his view that we should move ahead on the RT program before the construction is completed. I will listen carefully and evaluate our approach.

We thank you for your time and interest in this matter, and we ask that you bear with us as we assess what solution is most effective. We will make strides throughout this year, and, now that we have your contact information, will keep you abreast of our progress. Additionally, I welcome your comments and suggestions on how we can enhance customer service at our security checkpoints. Please see the airport Web site: www.atlanta-airport.com.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to explain why we postponed our decision.

Benjamin R. DeCosta
Aviation General Manager

One of the issues that always comes up when I poll airports about whether they willl bring on RT is the fact that the technology that would allow members to keep on their coats and keep laptops in their bags is still not available, a point DeCosta noted in his letter. At last check, the GE machines were still being tested in TSA's lab in Atlantic City.

I don't know if Clear members will be happy with DeCosta's explanation, but having lived in Atlanta and flown out of the airport frequently, I know travelers will appreciate his efforts to try and speed up the existing security lines for everyone.

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