TSA installs PHL self-select screening lines

The Transportation Security Administration says that starting today, PHL will have a new screening procedure at its B and C terminals designed to speed up the lines. The "diamond self-select" lines, which many of you have already used at the 50 airports where they have been set up, divide travelers into three groups, based on their experience. The lanes each have a diamond symbol in a particular color, like those used to designate expert, experienced or beginner ski slopes. The black diamond lane is for regular travelers who know -- or think they know -- how the routine works and are likely to get through it faster. The blue diamond lane is for the somewhat-experienced, mostly leisure travelers, but who may need to be reminded to remove shoes, jackets and all metal, and throw out that bottle of water. The green lane is for those with special needs, including families with children and those in wheelchairs or with other assistive equipment. At PHL, the lanes were set up in B and C terminals, used mostly by US Airways passengers.

A few observations: Why did TSA set up the lanes first in B and C and not Terminal D, which has the longest wait times, or Terminal E, with often the second-longest waits? I've asked but don't have an official answer yet. Best guess, more traffic in those terminals, and more lanes available, in a wider corridor, so that there was actually room to divide people into three groups. As I wrote about from PHL last week, the D-E terminals are getting a much larger security checkpoint, set to open before the Christmas holidays. You can see what average waiting times are at each terninal at PHL and all other U.S. commercial airports at this TSA link: http://waittime.tsa.dhs.gov/index.html. At PHL, the lines have gotten shorter this fall, probably the result of the usual seasonal decline in traffic and the airlines' dwindling flight schedules.

 My experience with this procedure is limited, but when they were first implemented, TSA had personnel directing travelers to the separate lines, based on what the officer surmised would be the best one. I was traveling at a slow time of the day from Dallas Love Field, with only a carryon bag, and was directed to a black diamond line with one other business traveler ahead of me, while a couple of family groups in front of me were sent to the green line. The families actually got through the process faster while the businessman put two bags on the belt, removed two laptops from them, and took off his lace-up shoes, jacket and jewelry. I was delayed perhaps a minute or two more than I would have in one of the other lanes -- not a big deal, but the experience pointed out to me that not all business travelers are going to speed through, and not all leisure travelers and ambulatory older people are going to be slow. Still, in most cases, the three-lane procedure appears to be working to speed up what is by necessity a tedious process.

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