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Although airports across the country are seeing the benefits of expedited screening initiatives, there remain major infrastructure improvements that could increase efficiency while cutting costs.
Passengers are moving more quickly through security checkpoints at South Florida’s three main airports, with most getting through in less than 10 minutes on average.
Three years ago, they waited an average of 15 minutes or more to clear airport security, and in 2007 it occasionally took an hour or more.
“It is going smoother,” said Steve Landes of Boynton Beach, director of the South Florida Airline Commuters Association, a group of frequent fliers. “It’s much faster, and I don’t see too many complaints.”
The quicker pace is a result of ramped-up prescreening programs, which are also allowing an increasing number of travelers to keep on their shoes and belts.
For example, the Transportation Security Administration Precheck program funnels travelers who enroll into expedited lanes — getting them through on average in less than five minutes. They can also leave on shoes and light jackets and keep laptops inside their cases.
So far, more than 9,500 travelers in South Florida have signed up, said TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz. The program began in 2012 in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and last year in West Palm Beach.
“While the passengers with TSA Precheck privileges benefit the most, so do all the passengers in the checkpoint,” she said.
Also shrinking lines is the TSA’s Secure Flight program, where all passengers automatically have their names checked against watch lists and no-fly lists when they purchase tickets. Or they are assessed in real time as a potential threat by TSA K9 teams, working with behavior detection officers.
Because of two programs, any traveler might be allowed to zip through security with shoes and belts still on.
“On occasion, passengers who are not officially in the TSA Precheck program may receive its benefits on that day for that flight because the traveler has been selected through our Secure Flight program before getting to the airport,” Koshetz said.
Still, all passengers must walk through body imaging machines or metal detectors, and TSA officers still randomly select passengers for secondary screenings or swab hands to check for explosive residue.
Koshetz said that even during holidays and busy travel periods, waiting times have been trimmed.
“The TSA is very good about managing their lines,” said Greg Meyer, spokesman for Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. “If they see people waiting for an extended period, they’ll pick them out and put them in another line.”
(c)2014 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.