Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Diamonds Are a Passenger’s Best Friend (Diamond Lane Program Expands to 3 More Airports)

The Diamond Lane Self Select Program is spreading like snow on the hills of the ski resorts of Salt Lake City and Denver where the program first originated. The program rolled out yesterday in Spokane, Washington and rolls out today in Boston and Orlando.

We've all been there. You've got your jacket and shoes off, laptop out, liquids and gels in a baggie… You're ready to roll, but you have to wait behind a large family or group of inexperienced travelers. It's frustrating. It's also frustrating for the inexperienced passengers as well because they are feeling the pressure and hearing the obvious sighs of frustration and the foot tapping from the frequent flyers in line behind them.

It's almost like when you're at a grocery store and you only want to buy a pack of gum. You find yourself in line behind somebody with an overflowing cart of groceries and they aren't making any offerings of letting you jump ahead. That's exactly why grocery stores implemented the express lanes and that's what we're doing with the Diamond Lane Self Select program.

I know what you're thinking… Some folks who consider themselves to be experts most likely aren't. Kind of like the person who jumps into the express lane at the grocery store with 28 items instead of 12. How do you remedy that? There are a couple of ways. Part of the program requires an officer as a guide working in the front of the queue lines to help direct passengers and answer questions. Also, just as in the express lanes at grocery stores, anybody who jumps in the wrong line is likely to experience unhappy passengers who will greet them with comments and sighs. Self policing if you will…

What have we learned so far since our last update on the blog? Throughput has increased up to 35 percent during our busiest peak times in the expert lanes at the pilot airports. In fact, in Salt Lake City, a news crew covering the program had to wait several hours to experience a 5 minute wait time.

Also, now that inexperienced travelers aren't feeling the heat from road warriors, they're doing a much better job preparing for screening. We're seeing a dramatic drop in the number of banned items we're discovering in the family lane. All this adds up to a more satisfied passenger, a very good thing in itself but not the only benefit. By allowing passengers to self-select, the checkpoint as a whole is a less stressful place.

By creating this calmer environment, suspicious behavior stands out better, allowing our behavior detection officers to do their jobs more effectively. Where are we going? The TSA plans to roll out the Diamond Lane Self Select program at a minimum of 3 more airports by the end of April. Stay tuned…

TSA EoS Blog Team