Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Ideas for Improving the Airport Security Experience

Ah, yes... a familiar sight... and the bane of my jet-setter existence...

Airport security has been a hot topic this week, and rightfully so. Ever since I used the JetBlue All-You-Could-Jet pass in September I’ve been determined to find fixes for this nightmarish operation.

Here is what I’ve come up with:

1) Line discrimination based on travel history.

What if we could designate different security lines based on frequency of travel? Number of flights would be used as the criteria, rather than miles (since a traveler could rack up 2,500 miles with one flight from LGA -> LAX or ten flights from LGA -> BOS).

Example: A business professional who takes eight flights per month would qualify for a “High Frequency” or “Frequent Flyer” line, while a family that travels three times a year would be sent to another line.

(This would, of course, be more of a service to frequent travelers, and might unfairly discriminate against inexperienced but efficient travelers... if they exist)

2) Automate the X-Ray conveyor belt sooner.

The conveyor belt starts about 1.5’ before your bag enters the X-Ray machine. Yesterday that meant I had to stand and wait with my carry-on baggage and push it into the X-Ray machine. Not a big deal, unless the person ahead of you neglects to do so, creating a pile-up of bins and bags.

What if there was a gently sloping ramp down to the X-Ray machine, so the bins rolled onto the conveyor belt without a push?

(I have also noticed that there is often one TSA agent assigned to push the bin through if a traveler forgets to... the ramp innovation could free up that agent to do more important things).

3) Discourage people from redressing alongside the conveyor belt.

See if this scenario is familiar:

A traveler passes through the security check-point. She stands on the other end of the X-Ray machine waiting for her belongings to pass through. When the bins are spit out she starts pulling items out of them: her belt (which she puts on immediately), her shoes (which she puts on next), her coat (which she puts on last). There is a pile-up of bins behind hers and the conveyor belt has to stop. Everybody behind her has to wait.

Though there is an area behind security where people can collect themselves, it is not an inviting space, nor is it easy to carry the cumbersome bins (plus carry-on bags) back to the designated area.

What if the slope idea continued here, and rather than having your belonging come out on a straight, roller-based belt, they came out more like they do in baggage claim: at knee-level height, in some sort of round-about? Then people would have to bend down and pick up the belongings. The round-about (probably a half-circle) would bend the line around to clear the way sooner and discourage a pile-up.

And how about bins with handles, or a conveyor belt that ends in some sort of automatic bin collection?

What other improvements can you imagine?

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