When I heard about the Transportation Security Administration’s new system to speed up airport security lines, I was skeptical. The system is called the “Diamond Lane Self-Select Program.”
Essentially it’s modeled after the signs you see on ski slopes, like … Black Diamond (you must have prior Olympic Ski Team experience to attempt this run) or Green Circle (your Grandmother could ski this run.
Backwards. With her eyes closed). It lets passengers select which security lane they think is most appropriate. Currently, it’s up and running in several airports across the country, including Denver, Salt Lake City and Dallas Love Field.
There are three signs in Diamond Lane Self-Select. As the TSA Web site explains:
Expert, for the business traveler who flies several times a month (Or in my case, two or three times a week.) Casual, (read: pokey) for passengers who travel less frequently, but are familiar with the security process Family/Special Assistance, for passengers traveling with small children or strollers, elderly passengers and passengers who may need special assistance (Translation: Sherpas carrying 40 pound packs will climb Mt. Everest before you make it through security in this lane. But to be fair, I did hear an interview with a young mother who said she really appreciated the extra help.)
I just experienced the Diamond system myself at Houston Hobby. As I approached the Expert line, I saw a bunch of guys in suits. For those of you who don’t fly a lot, that’s a good sign. I always try to get behind a guy in a suit. It mean’s he’s probably a business traveller and has done this once or twice before. But as I got closer, I noticed it was a LONG line of guys in suits. I glanced over at the casual line. It looked about the same. Family and Special Assistance Lane? No waiting. Maybe I could feign a limp.
I stayed put and began to get annoyed. The alleged business travellers at the head of the line looked like they were sure taking a lot of time to get their items in the bins. Slip on shoes people! They save precious seconds! And a belt buckle the size of Miami WILL in fact set off the metal screener, so why not just take off the belt in the ten minutes you’re waiting? Ditto that with your car keys, coins and watch.
To show my disgust and perhaps encourage others to follow my lead, I pulled out my laptop and ziplock baggie with 3 oz toiletries. See? I’m ready for the head of the line. And then, it was as if the gods of airport security had heard me and intervened. A TSA agent whisked me from my spot in line across to the Family/Special Assistance lane where there was no waiting. Hurrah! I glanced back at the so-called expert travelers and felt smug.
When I caught up with correspondent Kris Gutierrez at the gate, I asked, “How’d you like the new Diamond system?” He shrugged and said he hadn’t noticed.
“Well then how did you pick a lane?” I asked.
He said, “I just went to the shortest.”