We’ve heard it being discussed for several years – a more streamlined, simplified and technologically advanced airport security checkpoint process. This past Monday, TSA unveiled the first version of its “Checkpoint Evolution,” designed to lower passenger agitation, increase passenger throughput and improve security by allowing TSO’s to better observe the public.
There is much to like about TSA’s concept thus far – such as more fully integrating TSO’s into the checkpoint process, the introduction of new technologies, and an intense focus on the passenger experience – but an immediate question goes to the foot-print of this new checkpoint. It’s questionable whether there is sufficient room at enough large airport checkpoints to really make an impact. Virtually all airports have space constrained checkpoints and will be hard pressed to implement the various aspects of TSA’s vision.
In addition, there are several areas that deserve ongoing consideration. First, the advancements in technology presented are not monumental advancements, but rather incremental improvements. There are a variety of other proven checkpoint technologies that TSA should continue to evaluate, pilot and incorporate into alternative “Checkpoint Evolution” designs moving forward. What better way to keep the terrorists guessing than to introduce multiple versions of the checkpoint with various technologies.
Second, none of the major passenger hassles at the checkpoint are addressed – removing your laptops from your carry-on baggage, taking off your shoes and removing your outer- coat. Allowing passengers to forgo any one of these requirements would go a long way toward restoring passenger confidence in TSA. Again, this goes back to testing and deploying more advanced technology.
Third, the lack of any mention of TSA’s Registered Traveler program or its biometric processes is puzzling. While not one of TSA’s favorite programs, it clearly has appeal to the traveling public and deserves some acknowledgment when discussing future concepts of the checkpoint.
Finally, who pays for these improvements? TSA has indicated that while it designed this new checkpoint concept, it will not pay for airports to adopt it. Instead, airports and airlines will have to pay for the lights, soundtracks, counters, and other non-technology features. TSA will only pay for the security equipment, screener headsets and possibly bin-return machines. The prospect of getting airports to pay for it (almost assuredly at the expense of airlines) is not an attractive prospect.
So while we are all digesting TSA’s first version of its “Checkpoint Evolution,” we should all keep in mind that the devil is in the details that are yet to come.