TSA re-opening South security checkpoint Tuesday

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The South security checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport reopened Tuesday morning for the launch of new lanes aimed at speedier processing of passengers — just days before the rush of Memorial Day travelers begins.

The closure of the South checkpoint over the past three weeks led to complaints and consternation among travelers who were faced with lines stretching from the main checkpoint through the terminal atrium, around the corner and snaking around baggage claim carousels during the busiest periods.

PHOTO GALLERY: TSA checkpoint

The South checkpoint is open 9 a.m.-1 p.m . and 2:15-5 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Two of the four lanes at the South checkpoint have been replaced with a new system using a RFID (radio frequency identification) system on bins on automated conveyor belts and multiple stations for passengers to load items into bins, aimed at reducing the issue of getting stuck behind a passenger taking more time to load bins. Those are the lanes TSA is using at the South checkpoint Tuesday and Wednesday.

South checkpoint 2

John Spink / AJC

Hartsfield-Jackson is the first airport in the country to test the new “smart lane” system, in a partnership between TSA, the airport and Delta Air Lines. The new system is similar to one used at London Heathrow Airport.

Lane 1

John Spink / AJC

Some of the first travelers to try the new checkpoint said they liked the new system, especially the automated movements of bins.

“You kind of have your own little station” to put belongings into bins, said Emilie Wetmore, a nursing student from Woodstock. “It was convenient.”

“It’s very automated,” said traveler Marc Fussell, who works in Buford. “People are not looking for bins; they’re already there.”

Fussell said he thinks it’s “a good way to speed the process.”

After putting your carry-on items into the bin, “you push it onto the conveyor belt and there it goes — instead of sliding all your stuff like you used to,” said frequent traveler John Marshall.

A new lane while it was under construction in early May. The stations on the left allow five different travelers to load bins, each at their own pace. After loading a bin, the traveler pushes the bin onto the automated conveyor system on the right, which will shuttle the bin to the X-ray machine. The passenger can then walk through screening without waiting for slower passengers in front to finish loading bins. John Spink / AJC

A new lane under construction in early May. The stations on the left allow five different travelers to load bins, each at their own pace. After loading a bin, the traveler pushes the bin onto the automated conveyor system on the right, which will shuttle the bin to the X-ray machine. The passenger can then walk through screening without waiting for slower passengers in front to finish loading bins. John Spink / AJC

Because travelers don’t have to lift full bins or move them themselves, the bins are larger.

Only some passengers were directed to the checkpoint on Tuesday, to test the system and allow TSA officers to become familiar with the new system.

Marshall said the new system “seems like a good idea…. I think it’s headed in the right direction.”

“If you’re quick, you’re not held up” by slower people, Marshall said. “For someone like me who travels all the time, I think you’ll get through security a heck of a lot faster.”

After the morning and afternoon operations of the South checkpoint on Tuesday, the TSA will conduct operational reviews of how the new lanes worked.

One issue the testing will reveal is how quickly travelers learn to use the new system.

“The first time there, it’s a little bit confusing,” Wetmore said. “But you get that with the old way too. It just takes some getting used to.”

TSA says it plans to open all of the checkpoints at Hartsfield-Jackson on Wednesday on regular hours, with the South checkpoint using the two new lanes.

On Thursday as Memorial Day travel begins in earnest, all three checkpoints will be open with regular operations, according to TSA.

“I’m excited to see [the new lanes] in action with a big line of people, because that will be the true test,” Marshall said.


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