American Airlines To Help Reduce TSA Wait Times

While Americans look forward to their summer travels, they do not look forward to long lines and TSA checkpoints. In May, representatives from major U.S. airlines met with Department of Homeland Security head Jeh Johnson and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) chief Alan Metzler to air their grievances. After thousands of passengers throughout the nation missed flights due to this summer’s long wait times at TSA checkpoints, American Airlines is hoping to take some control over the situation.

 “In May, I talked about two words that have a big impact on all of us: TSA lines,” American Airlines COO Robert Isom stated. “Today I’m thrilled to share that we’re adding three more words to that phrase: ‘…are getting better.” The carrier recently pledged to spend $5 million on improving passenger and carry on screening technology to hopefully speed up the process of getting through security checkpoints. This is in addition to the $21 million that the airline has already spent on trying to lessen the congestion at major airports. 

In partnership with the TSA, the funds will be used to develop computed tomography (CT) for carry on luggage as well as the installation of automated screening lanes. While CT technology is currently being used for checked luggage, American Airlines is the first airline to utilize it for carry on bags in the United States. The American Airlines hub at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport will be the first to test out this new tech. 

Computed tomography scanners generate 3D images of customer luggages and analyze their contents with a computer. Security officials will only need to check bags if the computer identifies something suspicious. Utilizing CT scanners will also allow customers to keep liquids in their bags, reducing the time spent going through security. “When applied to the security lane, [a CT scanner] allows customers to leave their liquids, gels and aerosols, as well as laptops, in their carry-on bags,” Isom wrote in a letter to American Airlines workers. “Think of the time — and bins! — that saves.” CT scanners are currently in use at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and London’s Luton Airport, where scanners have allowed for twice the amount of carry on bags to be checked while reducing checkpoint wait times by 50 percent. 

The airline aims to have the CT system in place at its Phoenix hub by the end of the year and if successful, has plans to expand to airports throughout the nation, including Chicago O’Hare International and Dallas Forth Worth. 

“We are working with several vendors that have expressed interest in participating in our Innovation initiative to ensure their systems are certified to detect to our standards,” a TSA spokesperson told Business Insider in an email. One of the vendors being considered for the Phoenix trial will be the Massachusetts-based firm, Analogic. Analogic is the manufacturer behind the $300,000 scanners that are currently utilized in Amsterdam Schiphol and London Luton. 

Along with the CT scanners, American Airlines will also be introducing automated screening lanes. The first installation of these automated lanes will be at Chicago O’Hare this fall. Delta Airlines, which has already installed similar lanes at its Atlanta-Hartsfield hub, found that the automatic lanes decreased wait times by 30 percent.

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