Atlanta airport: ‘Smart lanes’ ready for summer crowds


Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has finished installing 22 so-called smart lanes at security checkpoints, completing the full roll-out of the new lanes aimed at speedier screening.

Atlanta airport general manager Roosevelt Council announced the completion during testimony to Congress last week.

The roll-out started about a year ago, as part of an effort to address long security lines that plagued Hartsfield-Jackson and airports across the country.

Hartsfield-Jackson was the first U.S. airport to test the new lanes. They were funded with a $1 million investment by Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines for the first two lanes and another $12.5 million paid by the airport for an additional 20 lanes.

The airport has a total of 27 security lanes at three checkpoints in the domestic terminal.

Other airports and airlines have begun installing the lane design.

The lanes allow multiple passengers to load bins at the same time, reducing logjams behind people who have lots of items or simply take longer.

Council said a standard security lane can handle 160 people per hour, while a smart lane can handle up to 208 passengers per hour.

Particularly during busy holiday periods, Council said that “can make a difference between a 35-minute wait and an under 20-minute wait,” which is the airport’s goal.

But some travelers have been confused by the new system, Council acknowledged.

“A learning curve exists for passengers who are unfamiliar with the technology,” Council said. “However, we are confident that in time, people will understand the process and enjoy the time-savings.”

Part of the issue is that the efficiency of the smart lanes depends on travelers understanding they can jump ahead to put their items into bins even when passengers in front of them haven’t finished.

Some travelers have also encountered confusion with the lanes’ different system of pushing bins onto the conveyor.

Also, the lanes feature an automated bin return system that works best when passengers put their bins on the bin return stack at the end of the lane. Many leave their empty bins on the conveyor.

“While it’s too early to fully assess the strengths and weaknesses of smart lanes, our findings over the last year have shown positive results,” Council said. “Their performance over time will be the true measure of success.”

Benefits include strengthened security, by diverting bags that set off an alarm to a separate conveyor not accessible to the passenger, he said.

Speedier screening also reduces the buildup of crowds in areas that could be terrorism targets.

Council said for airport officials, “the white space between when you get out of your car at the curb and get to the checkpoint — that is our focus when it comes to security, and trying to ensure people can get through the checkpoint onto the secure side.”



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