It’s a question on the minds of most air travelers: How long will it take me to get through security and to my gate?
Tampa International Airport is prepared to answer that question. The airport on March 7 began posting the approximate wait times at security checkpoints on digital displays in the main terminal at the entrance to airside shuttles.
“Since its opening more than 40 years ago, Tampa International Airport has had a reputation for efficiency and ease of use that has made it one of the most-loved and well-regarded airports in the world,” said airport CEO Joe Lopano. “One of my top goals is to build on that reputation and introduce services that will make travel through our airport even easier. This initiative will help us accomplish that goal.”
In a recent survey of more than 300 Tampa International Airport customers, an overwhelming majority– more than 84 percent -- said they would like the airport to provide information on security checkpoint wait times. Research by JD Power and Associates shows that the amount of time required for security screening is one of the most important factors in determining customer satisfaction with an airport.
In addition to answering traveler uncertainty about how long it may take to get through security and to gates, this information can improve airport efficiency by identifying when and where more resources are needed to speed security screenings.
“Information about expected wait times at security checkpoints is incredibly valuable to passengers and enhances customer service,” said Christopher Bidwell, vice president of security and facilitation for Airports Council International-North America, a trade association that represents airports in the US and Canada. “This information provides a certain level of predictability and gives passengers the comfort of knowing they may have time to enjoy a cup of coffee or take care of other business before heading to their departure gate.”
The system, installed by Com-Net Software, a SITA company, works by time-stamping Bluetooth signals from communications devices at the entrance to the Tampa airport passenger shuttles and at the end of security checkpoints. To protect privacy, the Bluetooth signals are encrypted, no personal information is collected, and all data is deleted every 30 minutes. Passengers who prefer not to participate in the program can disable their Bluetooth signal. Signs are posted to let travelers know this option is available to them.
The system will be tested for 30 days. A passenger survey will determine if the service is useful and if customers are comfortable with the technology. If the response is positive, the program will be implemented permanently.
The technology has previously been tested at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and Indianapolis International Airport. It is already in place at the Heathrow and Frankfurt airports, as well as other airports around the world.