As the Transportation Security Administration continues its efforts to get travelers through airport screening faster, United Airlines is the latest carrier to unveil plans for new “automated” screening lanes at key hub airports.
Delta was the first carrier on board with the new program, when it cooperated with TSA in the installation of new screening equipment and procedures at a TSA checkpoint in Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson earlier this year. Then a few weeks ago, American Airlines announced similar plans for its screening lanes at Phoenix Sky Harbor this fall, to be followed by Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, and Miami International. And now United plans to bring the “automated” lanes to its hubs as well, starting with Newark Liberty this fall and then to Chicago O’Hare and Los Angeles International.
United’s plans also call for the reconfiguration and consolidation of passenger screening checkpoints at Newark, O’Hare and Los Angeles. That includes combining four existing checkpoints at Newark’s Terminal C into one centralized facility with 17 lanes.
The new lanes feature automated belts that extend back farther so that passengers don’t have to keep pushing the bins of their belongings into the x-ray machines, and they allow up to five travelers at once to put their bins onto the belt, instead of doing it one at a time. The systems also have new conveyor belts that return empty bins back to the head of the screening line so that TSA employees don’t have to do it. If a passenger’s bag is determined to need a closer look after being x-rayed, that bag is automatically shunted off the main belt for further inspection without holding up the line.
Based on the results of the new screening configuration at Atlanta’s airport, TSA said the revised equipment and procedures should reduce line time for screening by 30 percent.
United will also work with TSA in opening up a temporary PreCheck enrollment center in downtown Chicago’s Willis Tower next month, followed by new permanent enrollment centers at its hub airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Newark and Chicago.
And the above installations could be just the beginning. TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger told USA Today that the agency hopes to see up to 60 of the new screening lanes in place at the nation’s busiest airports by the end of the year.
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