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With passengers regularly complaining of two-hour wait times to make it through TSA screening lines, travelers are hungry for tips on how to speed up the process. Several airports and airlines have joined in the effort, going so far as to hire more employees to aid the TSA (which just fired its head of security) in making security lines move faster. Now the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), the world’s busiest airport, has become the testing ground for an experimental screening process that could very well help improve, if not fix, the #IHateTheWait problem.
Earlier this week, the airport (which saw its own general manager removed from office last week) began testing — and showing off — an innovative new security process that’s meant to reduce the amount of time that gets wasted dealing with smaller, onerous problems like passengers forgetting to take off their shoes and staff having to replenish the baggage bins.
According to CNN, which was given a sneak peek at the process, the new system, which is currently in operation, will see the following improvements:
- Bins with suspicious bags are automatically rerouted to a separate conveyor belt to keep the lanes moving.
- Baggage bins automatically recirculate after they move through the security machine, saving staff time.
- The lanes include areas where passengers can take off shoes at their own pace, which will speed up lanes.
Former TSA assistant administrator Chad Wolf told the outlet that the TSA has been discussing these exact changes for a number of years (London’s Heathrow Airport already has a similar system in place), though no one knows exactly how much time it will end up saving. TSA spokesman Mark Howell said the agency is hoping to see a best-case efficiency improvement of up to 25%-35% per lane.
For now, it’s starting small. Only two of the airport’s 28 screening lanes will feature the new system, which TSA officials claim could be “The Future” of the agency. But the timing couldn’t be better, as this Memorial Day is expected to be one of the most traveled in history. Atlanta alone is anticipating a record 90,000 passengers over the holiday weekend.
Should the project prove to be successful, passengers will have Delta Air Lines to partially thank; the company paid $1 million to help develop and build the new security lanes, and it’s also planning to help get them rolled out to more airports if all goes well.
While a TSA official gave CNN a timeframe of “as soon as five years” to make these lanes a standard feature at airports across the country, Delta’s COO, Gil West, said “Five years is way too long to scale this,” and promised that Delta “will help enable the acceleration of the deployment.”
So far, things at ATL seem to be moving along. The airport, which regularly tweets its average waiting times, was reporting an average of about 15-30 minutes to get through security this morning.
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