Delta has designed and installed new “innovation lanes” for security checkpoints at Atlanta’s airport, according to a video and article shared on The Verge. Taking a look at it, I’m not sure how innovative these lanes are. They look like a copy of the lanes used at London’s Heathrow airport, although it’s still fair to say that they’re new to U.S. travelers.
The idea is that several passengers are assigned to loading zones where they can unpack and push their bins forward onto the conveyer. This helps the line move much faster. Multiple people can unpack at their own pace, in parallel, rather than holding up the line by pushing through one at a time.
I think it works great in theory and probably will be an improvement for most travelers. But I’m still cautious because I don’t think this model has been implemented well at Heathrow.
The system is highly automated and regimented to a fault. You get only one bin at a time, and there are usually shortages waiting for more bins to arrive. This is an issue for passengers like me who carry on everything. I need a bin for my suitcase, another bin for my computer bag, a third bin for my computer (which is not allowed to be in the bag), and a fourth bin for my liquids and everything else.
In a normal security line I would have two bins and two bags side-by-side, maybe even stacking them as I move along the tables until I reach the imaging device. But at Heathrow I don’t have adjacent space to unpack. I have to lift up my bag onto the space in front of me, then reach over it to place more items on the conveyer as space opens up.
Even more than usual, the agents on duty are there to reprimand you rather than help you. If I do request assistance from an agent at Heathrow, like help getting a second bin, I get a glassy eyed stare that wonders how I could be so stupid not to understand how the process works.
Now, the system could work great if you pack light, or if you’re a U.K. traveler used to how Heathrow operates. Heathrow is a giant international transfer hub, and most people check their large bags so don’t face the headache I just described. Then again, a lot of passengers are coming from all different places and aren’t familiar with the process. I’m just saying that it doesn’t work great for all people. More bins and more helpful staff would probably go a long way.
Since Delta has shown itself willing and capable of installing its own security checkpoints at Atlanta, I imagine these are also issues it can address if it hasn’t already.