Triangle Trip

Tag: airport screening

TSA security checkin time at LAX for 2009/2010 holiday travel

by on Dec.31, 2009, under Airlines, Business Travel, Vacation

With heightened security measures at US airports, Los Angeles International’s (LAX) TSA staff can appear to be slower than usual over the 2009 holidays. But the situation isn’t all that bad. I got to LAX at 11:10AM for a 12:30PM flight in anticipation for delays and bag check. With Medallion status, it took me 50 minutes to check my bags and clear TSA security at LAX’s Terminal 5 for a Delta flight (I had to check a bag because I was carrying California wine back to the east coast.).

Here are some statistics and best practices for your December 2009 and January 2010 holiday travel at LAX’s Terminal 5:

*  Give yourself at least one hour to get through TSA security regardless if your airline status. It still took me exactly 50 minutes to check my bags and get through TSA security; this is despite the fact that I’m a Medallion member, and I know my way around LAX terminals.

*  Forget the status line and just line up with everyone else. I was on the Delta Medallion/First Class line and waited 35 minutes to pass the first TSA security checkpoint – where they check your ID and ticket. The regular line was a lot faster as people who got in line with me passed me on the first checkpoint. There were 3 screeners checking IDs on the normal line vs 1 screener for the Medallion/First Class line.

*  If you’re checking bags and don’t have status, give yourself two hours to check your bags and get through TSA security. The regular bag check line was wrapping around the doors outside the departure terminal at LAX Terminal 5. I also noticed issues with the checkin kiosks as people were complaining.

*  Note that LAX’s Terminal 4, 5, 6, and 7 are all interconnected. You can always checkin at Terminal 5 and use the walkway to get to Terminal 7 or 4.

I dropped off friends at LAX Terminal 6 and noticed the United line was also wrapped around the doors of Terminal 6 and terminal 7. I suggested our best practices (see previous posts: use Terminal 6 vs 7 and quickly get through Terminal 7) to my friends and they were able to clear TSA security in 20 minutes.

Happy 2010 everyone!

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Why (fly) Clear failed?

by on Jun.24, 2009, under Business Travel, Travel Partners

Clear was a good concept. Pay $199 for membership to quickly get through airport security. So what went wrong? (aside from not fixing issues highlighted by yours truly from a previous post). Below are the reasons:

1.  Clear was trying to be something they are not. Clear wanted to participate in TSA-related activities but didn’t have the authority to do the job. Clear couldn’t get you pass security any faster than a traveler with airline status because Clear personnel couldn’t perform screening like a TSA agent. Clear only allowed you to skip the first TSA checkpoint – the TSA person matching  your boarding pass against your driver license/ID. You still had to go through the same TSA scanners, take off your shoes, remove your belt, show liquids, etc. And you’d have to wait for the leisure travelers to get their acts together after the screening process to repack. So Clear probably saved you 2 minutes tops – not to mention you may lose a few minutes because the fingerprint authentication machine didn’t work properly.

2.  Too much talk (marketing) and no execution. I have been getting spammed by Clear since its inception. I was also  spammed as a Clear member to get other members to join Clear. I also see tons of Clear marketing people handing out flyers at airports where Clear operates (mostly JFK). What’s the point of handing out flyers at airports when most of the people there are either Clear customers already or will never pay $200 a year because they are vacationers. Spending all the money on ineffective marketing campaings as opposed to focusing on launching airports led to Clear’s failure (see my previous post regarding issues). All that money in the bank should have gone to launch LAX and other important airport hubs which can ultimately drive membership (aka: revenue). I had a Clear membership but couldn’t use it half the time because I am a frequent traveler out of one of the busiest airports in the world (LAX and ORD). What’s the benefit of being a Clear member when I can quickly get through Indianapolis airport security when there are no lines?

3.  Poor leadership and management. What’s the point of gathering all my personal data when it is not necessary? Why do I see 4 to 8 people at Clear kiosks when the registration process and check-in process should be easy and straight forward? I found the registration process to be extremely cumbersome and unnecessary. Clear did not need my fingerprints to validate my identity. I believe two government issued IDs is sufficient proof. Investment in the fingerprint and eye scanning machines were a waste of shareholder funds. Furthermore, it took two people to register me at SFO.

Instead of wasting all the money and closing up shop now, Clear had a perfect chance to save itself. All Clear management had to do was read Triangle Trip and my open letter to the US Homeland Security Chief and TSA (see post). We sincerely hope the airlines are reading our posts as they are important feedback to the industry. I am sure Clear will also be a business case study at some B-school down the road… here’s a free research paper for the kiddies!

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How TSA can speed up airport security screening

by on Mar.29, 2009, under Business Travel, Travel Partners

An open letter to our new US Homeland Security Chief, Janet Napolitano:

After using (Fly) Clear for the past three months, I know Clear is not the solution for frequent travelers. Clear does not provide much value aside from letting me skip the security line at a few airports. Clear also has many other issues (check out my previous post).

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) under the Department of Homeland Security must come up with a solution similar to what Dulles is offering to its frequent travelers: Dulles Diamond. Although I have not used the service but I believe in the concept.  TSA need to implement a “Professional Travelers Access Program.”

The “Professional Travelers Access Program” needs to guarantee fast security screening by separating business/frequent travelers from casual travelers. In order to qualify for the ‘Professional Travelers Access Program,’ I believe you must pass the security screening exam. I do not think the Dulles Diamond line has a restriction.

Below are my proposed criteria for anyone to qualify for the “Professional Travelers Access Program:”

1. Demonstrate that you can remove your coat, belt and shoes, unpack your liquids, and take out your laptop for the metal screening device in less than 45 seconds.

2. Walk through the metal detector (with your boarding pass) without beeping or being re-screened.

3. Show the ability to quickly gather your belongings after you’ve passed security in less than 45 seconds.

4. Once you have passed the exam, you will get a special card to be screened at the Professional Travelers Access Program.

5. As a member of Professional Travelers Access Program, you must maintain your ability to quickly get through the security line or the agent will have the right to send you to the normal line with novice travelers.

Most business and frequent travelers can easily pass my proposed test. The frequent travelers are prepared and know what to do before they even get to the airport. It is time for the TSA to understand its customers. TSA must separate the novice travelers from the professionals to speed up the security process during peak travel times – Monday mornings and holidays. The “Professional Travelers Access Program”will streamline the security screening process and improve customer service.

I am offering my services free of charge to the TSA if they need further consultation. I cannot believe Dulles (which we believe is one of the worst airports in the US) already has a similar program implemented. I am curious to hear about the Dulles Diamond successes and failures. Please post your comments if you have used the Dulles Diamond service at Dulles. I also look forward to hearing from someone working at the TSA or the Department of Homeland Security.


Captain G

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