The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest airport in the world, was forced to close one of just three domestic TSA checkpoints for three weeks, as federal officials work to calibrate new automated screening equipment. Though the technology should eventually expedite the TSA screening process, for now, travelers are stuck waiting.
This summer, TSA warned, travelers across the nation should expect longer than normal waits at security checkpoints, due to high traffic and low staffing. The implementing new technology in Atlanta is adding significantly to that wait time.
The Atlanta airport, which handled more than 100 million travelers in 2015, teamed up with Delta Airlines to install the new automated security screening equipment in two of the four lanes at its south checkpoint. The new equipment, similar to that recently introduced at London’s Heathrow and Amsterdam’s Schipol, will be operated by TSA workers, but will decidedly reduce wait times at security checkpoints. The technology, which includes automated security bins and separate conveyer belts for suspicious luggage, will open on May 24.
By making two of the four lanes at the south checkpoint automated, airport officials will be able to make side-by-side comparisons between the automated system and manual TSA screening system. The reports from this test run in Atlanta, if positive, could help create a pilot program to be replicated in other major airports.
For the time being, select Atlanta TSA workers have been working to direct traffic through security and additional lanes have been opened at the airport’s other security checkpoints to help accommodate the airport’s high volume of travelers.
In midst of the technological changes, the world’s busiest airport is fully staffed. “It’s all hands on deck for us,” said Reese McCranie, the airport’s communications director. “Waits have been north of 30 minutes and have been as short as 10-20 minutes,” McCranie added.
For one traveler, the increased wait times at Hartsfield-Jackson have not gone unnoticed. Mike Robles, who was traveling from Atlanta to Chicago in early May, was nervous that the line at TSA would cause him to miss his flight. “When I’ve come through Atlanta before, it’s busy, but you get through in a timely manner,” Robles said. “Now, it seems a little bit longer and we’re moving a little bit slower.”
Officials at the Atlanta airport have recently filed a complaint with TSA about the “inadequate” staffing, which is even more worrisome in light of the increased passenger traffic expected for this summer. The airport communicated its intention to turn to privatized passenger screening if TSA staffing isn’t increased. For more information on TSA line closures, [Click Here].
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