MONTREAL (Reuters) - Canada will introduce a new kind of security line at airports in Montreal and Calgary later this year to move people through checkpoints more quickly as pressure rises in North America to reduce passenger bottlenecks.
The automated line, one element in a new checkpoint developed by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), is an example of how U.S. and Canadian airports are using technology to speed passenger flow despite complaints of insufficient numbers of screening staff.
The redesigned CATSA Plus checkpoint combines elements that exist separately at other airports such as electronic gates to screen passports and ceiling-mounted sensors to track the flow of passengers and display waiting times at line-ups, an authority spokesman said in an interview.
“We have to find new ways to keep security, which is our first priority, but also improve the passenger flow, the customer experience,” said CATSA spokesman Mathieu Larocque.
The Montreal trial will start in late August with one line, but include elements of the CATSA Plus checkpoint such as a separate X-ray screening room where agents can view scans of carry-on bags remotely.
It also will use lines that automate the distribution of bins for carry-on bags at checkpoints to avoid screening bottlenecks because multiple bags can be checked at the same time. This would allow faster passengers to pass slower ones in security lines. (To see CATSA's video of how the system works, click here
Automated lines exist in Europe and in the United States, where Delta Air Lines and the Transportation Security Administration recently opened two lanes in Atlanta’s airport.
TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger said at a U.S. Senate committee hearing on June 7 that the automated lines have improved efficiency at the checkpoints by 30 percent.
The world’s largest carrier, American Airlines Group, said on Wednesday it will use automated lanes at some airports.
CATSA Plus is being introduced as the Canada Airports Council calls for a national service standard where 95 percent of most passengers would be processed in 10 minutes or less in major airports. While Canada has no national standard, CATSA says it screens 88 percent of passengers in 15 minutes or less.
While airports applaud new screening checkpoints, they say such initiatives won’t replace federal budgets for screening agents which have failed to keep up with rising traffic.
In the United States, the TSA expects to screen about 100 million more passengers this year than in 2013, even as its full-time workforce declined by 12 percent.
According to CATSA’s 2015 annual report, the authority screened 58 million passengers in 2014-15, up about 20 percent from 2010-11. In that time, the authority’s operating budget grew about 3 percent to C$544 million.
“It (CATSA Plus) is all fantastic and it is going to help. But as traffic continues to grow we can’t just rely on efficiencies,” said Daniel Gooch, president of the Canadian Airports’ Association on Wednesday.
CATSA’s budget grew almost 11 percent in 2016-17 to C$618 million, partly because of an extra $29 million invested by Canada’s Liberal government to improve passenger service.
Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal; Additional reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in New York.; Editing by Alan Crosby