- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 6, 2002

LINTHICUM, Md. The men and women hired to protect passengers from terrorist attacks are going to class to learn the best ways to quickly and courteously move travelers through security checkpoints.

In two days of training this week at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, they heard federal officials lecture on the importance of both security and customer service and saw a newly configured passenger checkpoint that will be replicated at other airports.

Rather than wait in a straight line running out into the terminal, passengers now wait in switchbacks, similar to the lines at Walt Disney World. A Disney executive on loan to the Transportation Security Administration helped develop the plans for handling long lines of passengers.

While the passengers wait and the security agency is trying to ensure that they spend no more than 10 minutes in line before they reach the metal detectors animated signs instruct them on how to speed their passage through security: take off coats, put keys and cell phones in carry-on bags, and turn on their laptop computers.

To make the wait even shorter, a separate line is reserved for airport and airline employees and passengers in wheelchairs.

Baltimore airport security officials found so many passengers trying to carry scissors on board that their animated signs also warn that the cutting tools are prohibited, said David Foster, a program analyst with the security agency.

Other airports have problems with different items, he said. In Anchorage, Alaska, the metal detectors are frequently set off by steel-tipped boots, while passengers in Grand Rapids, Mich., try to carry hockey sticks on board and security screeners in Dallas worry that travelers may try to hide something in their 10-gallon hats.

Once passengers reach the security point, a line manager directs them to the next open metal detector. Passengers selected for additional screening go to adjacent booths, separated by clear partitions so they can keep an eye on their carry-on luggage. A fifth lane was set up to handle more passengers, and there is room for a sixth.

As they set up the security checkpoints at their airports, the new federal directors are drawing on Baltimore's experiences.

Ike Richardson, the new federal security director at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, said the first checkpoints at that busy airport should be redesigned this summer.

"We will see which is the best way to do it at O'Hare," said Mr. Richardson, who spent three decades in the Navy before joining the security agency. "What we're looking for is good security and great customer service."

And Mike Aguilar, a retired Marine Corps brigadier general who runs security at the San Diego airport, is looking at ways to relieve congestion at his checkpoints.

"If we need to open new lanes, I'm certainly going to look at it," he said.

As they make sure passengers and luggage are carefully screened, the security directors were also told how important it was to foster customer service.

During one of the training sessions, Kurt Krause, a Marriott International vice president who is on loan to the new security agency, told the directors: "If we don't deliver confidence, if we don't deliver security, if we don't deliver customer satisfaction, people aren't going to be willing to travel."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide