Image: Passengers at Hartsfield-Jackson
Tannen Maury  /  EPA file
Passengers pull their luggage through the terminal at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in this file photo. The world's busiest airport added ten new security lanes to speed up the screening process.
updated 10/28/2008 3:36:36 PM ET 2008-10-28T19:36:36

Ten new security lanes to speed up the security screening process have been added at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as part of a nearly $26 million customer service investment at the world's busiest airport.

Four of the new lanes are in the South terminal and the remaining six new lanes are in the North terminal. The additions bring the total number of security lanes to 32.

The notion of separate lines for different types of fliers isn't a new one for the TSA. The agency has been experimenting with them for several months, and with good results.

By the end of October, the TSA will have self-select lanes operating in 46 airports across the nation.

"Everyday, approximately 300,00 passengers use self-select lanes, and that's equal to about 15 percent of the entire traveling public," TSA spokesperson Lara Uselding said.

"Program-wide, the expert lanes have seen an average 21 percent increase in throughput, while the alarm rates for the family lanes are down an average of 11 percent," she added.

The lanes — Expert, Casual and Family/Special Assistance — direct fliers based on their needs and knowledge.

"Thanks to these new lanes, we will be able to further reduce the time it takes for our customers to make their way through the security screening process," airport general manager Ben DeCosta told a news conference Tuesday.

The airport aims for security checkpoint wait times that never exceed 20 minutes and tries to keep the average wait down to between five and 10 minutes, he said. He noted that during the busiest period this summer, the airport managed to reduce the number of wait times exceeding 20 minutes by almost 90 percent as compared to last year.

A new sign system directing passengers to the airport's security lanes based on their level of air travel experience is also in place, said Transportation Safety Administration central area director Gerald Chapman.

The new signs are similar to those on a ski slope: black diamonds for expert, elite or frequent business fliers; blue squares for casual travelers who may have carryons but who have a basic understanding of security rules; and green circles for passengers with young children or who have special needs. The airport also has premium passenger lanes for certain airline customers, DeCosta said.

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Chapman said 45 other airports have already implemented the new signs and have seen a decrease in wait times and alarm rates.

"The ultimate goal is customer satisfaction, allowing passengers to select the lanes of their needs and according to their experience and also to enhance our security," Chapman said.

U.S Customs and Border Protection is now offering its Global Entry Program at Hartsfield-Jackson for select U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents who are at least 14 years old. The program grants participants the convenience of prescreening and exemption from routine questioning to expedite their entry into the U.S.

The voluntary program, which requires an enrollment fee, allows registered participants to use a self-service kiosk to report their arrival, scan their passport or permanent residency card, submit their fingerprints for biometric verification, and make a CBP declaration at the touch-screen kiosk. The kiosk then takes a digital photograph of the traveler as part of the transaction record, issues a receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit. Global Entry participants may still be selected randomly by CBP officers for additional screening at any time in the process.

Hartsfield-Jackson is the world's busiest airport, with more than 89 million passengers passing through annually.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. and AirTran Airways, a unit of Orlando, Fla.-based AirTran Holdings Inc., have their main hubs in Atlanta.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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