Sunday, January 7, 2007

The plastic bins that carry shoes, keys and loose change through airport security checkpoints may soon be doubling as billboards.

The Transportation Security Administration has announced a one-year pilot program to allow commercial advertisements on the bins at selected airports. TSA staffs, operates and maintains all passenger screening checkpoints at U.S. airports.

Under the terms of the program, private companies will supply TSA with the bins, metal tables and carts used at security checkpoints. In exchange, the agency will allow the vendor the right to place ads inside the bins.

“In exchange for the advertisements, TSA would get these [equipment] upgrades, which would enhance the screening process,” TSA spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said.

TSA devised the program to reduce the cost of replacing battered tables and bins.

“The bins and the tables, because of their frequency of use, they wear out regularly, and we have to pay to replace them,” Miss Kudwa said.

The program has been tested since July at Los Angeles International Airport. TSA received about $200,000 worth of tables, bins and carts, Miss Kudwa said.

Any company interested in participating must partner with an airport and submit a joint proposal to the TSA by Feb. 16. The ads could appear at airports as early as March, Miss Kudwa said.

Vendors will be responsible for content, but TSA will insist that the participating airports have “uniform standards to govern the nature of the advertisements” to ensure they are tasteful, Miss Kudwa said.

Miss Kudwa declined to say whether the agency had received any proposals.

Whether ads will be placed in bins at any of the Washington area’s three major airports is uncertain.

“We need more information on how this will work, but we’re interesting in learning more,” said Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports.

Officials at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport couldn’t be reached for comment.

TSA has scheduled an “information day” for Thursday at its Arlington headquarters for any interested airport or vendor.

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