US airlines are moving to address horror security lines at some of America’s busiest airports with new automated screening lanes.
As traffic ramps up this week during this week’s Thanksgiving holiday period , both United and American worked with the Transport Security Administration and local authorities to install new screening lanes at Chicago's busy O’Hare International Airport designed to cut screening time by 30 per cent.
The move comes after wait times at TSA checkpoints at the airport, a major US hub, earlier this year hit what Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel described as “an unacceptable” 104 minutes.
Industry trade group Airlines for America (A4A has estimated that 27.3 million passengers will travel globally on U.S. airlines during the Thanksgiving travel period, up 2.5 percent. That translates to an additional 55,000 passengers per day and airlines have added 74,000 seats daily to compensate.
The automated lanes at O'Hare are part of a wider push to tackle the lengthy security screening queues plaguing big US airports.
In addition to three automated screening points opened in O’Hare’s Terminal 1 in time for Thanksgiving, United has launched the technology in Los Angeles and was expecting to get Newark Liberty online before the holiday. When completed, a centralised checkpoint at Newark’s Terminal C will feature 17 automated lanes.
American this month opened two automated screening lanes in O’Hare's Terminal 3 and expects to deploy additional automated screening lanes early next yeaar at Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles , Miami and New York (JFK).
“These state-of-the-art lanes enhance security effectiveness and efficiency and will improve the customer experience for our passengers in time for the busy holiday season,” American Airlines vice president Franco Tedeschi said.
Innovations in the new lanes include automated belts that draw bags into the X-ray machines and return the bins back to queue after completion of the screening as well as bins that are 25 per cent bigger.
Those bags deemed a potential threat can be directed to a separate area to allow bins behind it to continue through the system uninterrupted and radio frequency identification tags are attached to each bin to track items as they move through the system.
American and the TSA will also next year start a pilot of computed tomography (CT) scanners similar to the technology used to screen checked bags.
The 3D CT technology could make it possible to allow passengers to leave liquids, gels and aerosols, as well as laptops, in their carry-on bags at all times. This results in a quicker throughput and less bin use.
“If the pilot testing is successful, the TSA may deploy CT technology to other checkpoints nationwide,’’ American said..