As lines have gotten longer and longer at many of the nations airports, we quickly learned that the TSA has been the problem in most if not all of these cases. The TSA has been severely understaffed and making little to no effort to speed up lines as wait times grow longer and longer this summer.
This has left airlines in an odd position. Every airline is heavily reliant on the TSA doing its job quickly, for when the TSA causes delays, it costs airlines a whole lot of money. Backups at security that have in some cases been as long as 3 hours, cause many passengers to miss their flights. When that happens, passengers need to be re-booked on different flights, sometimes planes are delayed waiting on passengers and all of this adds up to lost profits from extra fuel consumption to accommodating passengers on other planes.
Airlines have begun to step up to the plate where TSA has failed. Many airlines, including American Airlines started by supplying workers at non-critical places TSA agents work. Since these tend to be positions around security points that merely require people to direct foot traffic or other similar tasks, these can be done by people other than TSA agents. This frees up agents for the more critical tasks like baggage screening and security related positions.
Lines have been so bad lately though, that both Delta and American have begun to look at ways to cut out the TSA altogether and start using more automated methods of screening. Delta for instance designed a new security baggage handling system that increases areas for people to place their baggage on belts. The system increases the flow through and give more space for passengers to take liquids and laptops out for screening. The automated system takes it from there. Pilot programs have seen significant speed increases through security checkpoints.
American Airlines has also begun to make stride in using automated scanning technology to better detect security threats and also to speed up the baggage screening process. These new technologies have moved to CT scanners over traditional x-ray machines. Promising developments in automating this area predicts up to a 30% increase in speed for processing passengers at security points. American Airlines hopes to start rolling these out in the near future at their hubs.
While it is sad that airlines have had to start to do the job TSA is no longer capable of completing, it is nice to see some innovations coming to this area of passenger air travel. This is an area that has been fairly stagnant for a while, so any progress is great. While TSA shouldn't have let this become a problem, the outcome of advancements in moving things faster is welcome... though the fastest way would be to eliminate the screening part altogether, I hold no illusions that this will happen anytime soon.
Keep in eye out for these new technologies in your future travels around the US.