March 20, 2008 in Business

Are three airport security lines better than one?

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Transportation Security Administration has chosen Spokane to take part in a new program to reduce the wait and frustration caused by lines of travelers at security checkpoints.

Under the program that started Friday at Spokane International Airport, the TSA sometimes will have three security lines: expert, casual and family/special assistance lanes.

The expert line is for travelers who fly two to three times a month, the casual for those who fly occasionally and the last line is for anyone with children or special needs who may need more time to prepare for the security checks, said Eric Meyer, customer service manager for TSA in Spokane.

“When passengers come up, they are already tense. So what this is designed to do is alleviate some of the stress and be more customer service friendly with a little more compassion and understanding,” Meyer said.

However, the expert, or “Black Diamond” line, won’t always be available. Currently, the lines are split into the categories only from 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The rest of the time, travelers use the same security lines.

“It’s only going to be peak time frames,” Meyer said. “In the evening, we don’t really have a very large push of carriers going out at the same time.”

Last month, Denver and Salt Lake City started using the “self-select” system, and both have experienced reduced waiting times for expert travelers, according to a TSA press release.

TSA spokesman Dwayne Baird, who is based in Salt Lake City, said the new system has cut wait times 30 percent there. When one line is open, he noted, passengers are free to move over.

“It’s not hard and fast,” he said.

“Someone with small children can get overwhelmed with all the procedures,” Meyer said. “What we hope to do is make passengers feel a little bit more comfortable going through the lanes.”

Baird said the program was expanded to Spokane, as well as Boston and Orlando, because the security area was roomy enough to handle multiple lines at both the Concourse A-B and Concourse C security areas. The program does not affect TSA employment, he said.

He said Black Diamond will be instituted at another dozen or so airports next month, but declined to say whether any more would be in the Northwest.


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