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8/05/2008 - New TSA "Self Select" Security Lanes - The Good & The Bad
The U.S Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration (TSA) started a new experiment to speed up security line at some airports; this new idea comes from the trail designation on ski trails. The Circle/Novices. The Square/Intermediate; The Diamond/Expert
Officially the new the TSA is known as Self Select Lines. It allows flyers to choose their own security lane based on their own knowledge of how they travel. The breaks down of the lanes are as follows
-- Green-Circle is for families and those who need special assistance. This is for those flying with kids, strollers, in large groups, those who need assistance and those totally unfamiliar with the TSA screening process (which is more people than you'd think).
-- Blue-Square is for flyers that are somewhat familiar with the TSA check point procedures. It is also intended for those flying with multiple bags, however with a limit of one carry on and one personal item, how many bags can someone be carrying (even the experienced flyers generally fly with 1+1 bags).
-- Black-Diamond is the lane intended for the Expert Flyer. This lane should be used only by the who know the TSA procedures inside and out; those who don't fumble at what they need to leave what they can take; those traveling light (I don't travel light, but I can get my stuff ready for the screening in about 30 seconds or less).
I recently encountered this new system that is in a limited number of airports, at Boston's Logan International Airport (BOS) and see the good and the bad in this system.
Rather than tear the new system apart, as I have seen in a few online forums, I'm going to start off by saying that I think this new system can have some significant advantages. If flyers are honest about their skill of navigating an airport, and enter the lane that accurately represents their knowledge of passing through a TSA checkpoint, this system can speed up security lines. Self governing can be a great way to weed people out of the line, and gives the TSA a better chance of sizing up that they are dealing with and who they need to help.
The downsides to these Self Select Lines are when people enter the wrong line. At Boston Logan Airport's Terminal A I entered the "expert" and stood not moving for around 9 minutes. I saw people in line with their shoes on, no laptops out, and one person arguing that they were flying in first-class so they should be entitled to use the "expert" line. Flying in first class does not make you an expert, it just means you paid more or got upgraded. I quickly moved to the "novice" line, behind a family with two small children and one very inexperienced flyer. I was through the checkpoint in less than 3 minutes. If people enter the wrong line thinking the "expert" line will move faster, when they are not a experienced in passing through the check points, they just slow down the line for everyone.
If inexperienced flyers think they were getting dirty looks at a standard TSA check point by going slowly (and I have no problem with people going their own speed, especially those who don't fly often) they should check out the dirty looks they get when they slow up the "expert" line to a crawl.
Overall if flyers are honest and choose the right lanes I think this new "Self Select Lines" can be a great way to speed up the time it takes to get through security. It is nice to see the TSA using some ingenuity in finding new ways to make the travel experience smoother and easier under an increasingly more difficult environment.