Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Update on Black Diamond Pilot in Salt Lake City - and Now It's in Denver Too

Earl Morris, who heads up TSA's airport security operations in Salt Lake City, sent in this update to my original post:
"It's been about a week since we launched our "Black Diamond" pilot to improve security and efficiency at the checkpoint, and things are going well. At Terminal 1 where we are running the pilot, you'll find six self-select lanes modeled after the ski icons familiar to many in this part of the country - green for beginners, blue for intermediate and black diamond for experts. During the peak times at our airport, we have two lanes dedicated for black diamond, two for blue and two for green. Everyone gets the same level of security screening based on their needs and experience with the checkpoint process. The education process begins at the ticket counter where travelers first see the signs and they select their lane before they reach the TSA document checker who reviews their identification and boarding pass.

The Green lanes are used primarily by families, who often feel stressed in the traditional lane trying to get through with their kids, strollers and other stuff. Often these folks haven't gotten the proper level of attention they deserve. People who don't travel much and groups also select this lane. We've dedicated more resources to get people through this lane quickly without making them feel pushed. The Blue lanes are for casual travelers who understand TSA procedures to a degree but may not travel all that frequently so they take a little more time. The black diamond lanes are for expert travelers who understand the system by the nature of traveling a lot and are totally prepared for the checkpoint. The goal is to ensure that TSA provides the proper level of service with customized needs of the traveler in mind. Security is improved by improving the process, taking the pressure off in the lines, eliminating the hassle factor and calming down the passenger.

Here's what we've learned so far:

We've remained flexible in this first week, and incorporated feedback from our employees and travelers to reconfigure lanes and streamline the process. The input from our employees has been critical in making this work. As some have noted in the comments section, one of the challengers we've faced is the casual traveler who perceives themselves as an expert and goes into the Black Diamond lane. We've placed TSA employees out front to educate the passengers and help them select the lane that is right for them. These folks have been successful in helping people while keeping a smooth orderly flow at the checkpoint. They also explain the liquids policy and have baggies in hand to provide to travelers.

We're pleased with how things are going, and we plan to keep the Black Diamond program going here in Salt Lake indefinitely. Our airport and airline partners are supportive, passengers are upbeat, the process is improving and every day we are working to make it better."

Earlier this week, Denver International Airport also began a Black Diamond pilot. For two weeks, passengers can choose the family/special needs, casual traveler or expert lanes in the North Checkpoint during peak morning and evening hours. If you use these lanes, please be sure to post a comment here to let us know what you think. Here are two articles from Denver: