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OM in the News: Queuing Up For TSA’s Fast Security Line

April 18, 2014
The TSA wants to speed up this line. Really.

The TSA wants to speed up this line. Really.

Fliers gripe that getting through airport security lines can be too slow. Now, it may be fliers who are slow to sign up for a program to speed them through the lines. The Transportation Security Administration is aggressively trying to encourage more people to sign up for TSA Precheck, reports The Wall Street Journal (April 17, 2014). 

Precheck, launched in 2011, is much-loved among travelers because they don’t have to take off their shoes and jackets, don’t have to pull liquids and laptops out of baggage, and can walk through metal detectors without a full-body scan. By doing background checks on Precheck enrollees and scanning law-enforcement databases, TSA offers what is essentially pre-9/11 screening to “trusted travelers.”

TSA wants lots more people enrolled in Precheck to make better use of its designated security lanes, which currently number 590 at 118 U.S. airports. “It’s one of the last great bargains the U.S. government is offering,” TSA Administrator John Pistole has joked. To entice travelers into Precheck and test TSA’s ability to handle more people, the agency has been selecting regular passengers to go through Precheck security lanes and get it printed on their boarding passes. Selection is based on criteria like passengers’ travel history and the route being flown. TSA officers trained in behavior detection also can move passengers they deem low risk from regular queues into Precheck lanes.

Pistole said he has heard the complaints about Precheck lanes getting clogged, and TSA has already decided to stop moving travelers 75 years of age and older into Precheck service, unless they are enrolled, because they sometimes can take 10 minutes to move through. “It used to be great, but recently the Precheck lines have been the slowest of all the lines,” said Northeastern University OM Professor Fred Van Bennekom, who has timed TSA lines. “Sometimes there’s almost no one in regular lines and we’re all backed up at Precheck.”

Classroom discussion questions:
1. Why is the TSA using the Precheck program?

2. What else can operations managers do to speed up the security screening process?

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 18, 2014 2:25 am

    I just registered for this in Chicago and the closest office is several miles away from downtown (and inconveniently located to downtown; the next closest offices are in Hammond, IN and Kankakee, IL – an hour drive away at best). To boot the Chicago office has no open appointments for the next 30 days. How many ‘customers’ will show up at a TSA office to wait in what will no doubt be a long line or drive over an hour to register? Seems to me that the TSA needs to better understand their customers if they want to ‘sell’ this product.

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