June 27, 2008

TSA Launches Color-Coded Security Lines at LaGuardia

By James Bernstein, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.

Jun. 27--Next time you go to LaGuardia Airport, you will have a choice of deciding whether you are green, blue or black.

No, you won't be playing a game. This is for real.

Under a new screening system launched earlier this week by the Transportation Security Administration, passengers at LaGuardia can voluntarily sort themselves into one of three lines, each assigned a color and a shape.

The line marked by a green circle is for families with small children and strollers, groups, people needing special assistance and people who are new to flying.

The blue square line is for casual travelers familiar with security check-in procedures and carrying multiple bags.

The black diamond area is for expert travelers who know to wear shoes that can be flipped off easily and travel light.

The idea, TSA spokeswoman Lara Uselding said yesterday, is to speed up check-in procedures, although the TSA does not have an estimate of how much time will be saved. The sorting is also intended to reduce anxiety and frustration on lines.

"If you're at the grocery store and you just want a gallon of milk, you don't want to be behind someone with a month's worth of groceries," Uselding said as a comparison.

Twenty-five U.S. airports already have the three-lane system at their terminals, Uselding said, and by the end of the summer, TSA expects 40 airports to be on board.

Kennedy Airport has one family lane at Terminal 8. At LaGuardia, the three-lane system is in use at the Delta Air Lines terminal. Newark Liberty International Airport is expected to adopt the system at the Continental Airlines terminal in a few months.

Uselding said that TSA, a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, first tested the system last February at the Salt Lake City Airport and then decided to expand it.

Lengthy lines at security check-ins have become a major headache for airports, airlines and fliers.

Earlier this month, Clear, the company that provides a fast pass for airport security, announced a partnership with Delta Air Lines that includes the operation of separate fast lanes in Delta terminals at Kennedy and LaGuardia. Under the Clear system passengers are prescreened by TSA. They provide the agency with iris and fingerprint images and then receive a card that allows them to access Clear's designated security lanes.

Delta and TSA last week announced another measure to speed up travel by allowing passengers to check in using their cell phones. Passengers can download their boarding pass for their flight onto their phone. The electronic passes can be scanned by TSA and displayed at the departure gate before boarding a flight.


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