Oakland airport seeks to improve screenings

April 21, 2008 6:53:21 PM PDT
On Monday, Oakland International Airport became the first Bay Area airport to implement a new government program.

It is designed to make it faster for passengers to get through security checkpoints and onto your plane. It borrows signage you might be more used to seeing on Tahoe's ski resorts.

Are you a black diamond expert? A blue intermediate? Or a green beginner?

That's the new question people flying out of Oakland airport are facing, under a new effort by the Transportation Security Administration to speed up those dreaded security lines.

If the signs look like the system for rating ski runs, it's purely "intentional."

The TSA'S diamond self-select lane program is aimed at dividing air travelers into categories.

You go into the black diamond lane if you're a frequent flier who is fast, travels light and has the system down.

You wait in the blue lane if you're a casual traveler, who's familiar with the procedures, or have several carry-on bags.

And slow traffic, you're in the green lane if you're traveling with children or need extra help.

"It is a great opportunity to be able to get thru a little faster, and at the same time be considerate of families who may want to stay together and take a little bit more time," said TSA Director Fred Lau.

On the first day, the lanes received generally good reviews from business and leisure travelers.

"Yes definitely. I don't have to wait behind baby carriages and all that. So it's good, no offense," said traveler John Forrester.

No offense taken by Eriko Ono, flying with her 14-month-old son and all his gear.

"It's actually really nice when I'm traveling alone with him to get a little bit of special treatment. Otherwise I do tie up the lines quite a bit," said traveler Eriko Ono.

Oakland is the first airport in California to offer these self-select lanes. It was only January when Salt Lake City became the nation's first test airport. TSA officials ABC7 News that security wait times there are down an average of three and a half minutes.

TSA officials hope these lanes will also allow screeners to better focus on security by taking away some of their traffic cop responsibilities.

But not all travelers appreciate the idea of being categorized.

One man so hated the new system. He gave TSA Director Fred Lau an earful before storming off and a few others just think delays will happen, no matter what.

"I think you're still going to get tied behind other people," said one traveler.

TSA admits success depends on people honoring the "honor system." Since following the color codes are voluntary, which lane you take is your choice.

The TSA hopes passenger peer pressure will get folks "in line." If the program proves successful in Oakland, it could expand to San Francisco and San Jose.

The TSA has a new feature to get feedback from travelers. If you want to tell them about your experience or opinions,click here.


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