Conde Nast Traveler

« Baltimore: Woodberry Kitchen | Main | Wyndham Wants You to "Be Well" »

December 31, 2008

TSA Lanes Fail Holiday Test

Tsaby Brook Wilkinson

I had the dubious pleasure of making my way through airport security three times last week: a round trip to see my family in New York, plus an extra trip to SFO thrown in when my original flight was canceled. Every single time, the TSA's "black diamond self select" program failed.

Security checkpoints at every major U.S. airport now have separate lanes meant to ease security bottlenecks. Travelers are supposed to be able to choose the family/medical liquids lane, the casual traveler lane, or the expert traveler lane, depending on their familiarity with airport procedures. Not so. Seeing that I'm a professional travel writer, I sized myself up for the expert lane. But every time I went through security, TSA officers hustled me into the casual traveler lane. The first time, I ducked under a cordon into the expert lane while no one was looking; the second time I questioned the TSA officer, who insisted that the lanes were assigned according to your boarding pass (what happened to the "self selection"?). When I flew home from Newark, there was a family traveler lane, a casual traveler lane, and a Continental EliteAccess lane. I strode up to the latter and asked the woman where the expert traveler lane was; she motioned me wordlessly into her line, even though I haven't achieved Continental's elite status.

If the TSA wants to institute self selected security lines, it has to play by its own rules. In my experience, the speediest checkpoints are still reserved for only the most frequent fliers and the upper-class ticket holders. Did anyone else actually find an expert line at an airport last week? Was I just unlucky?

Further reading:
* Bush Officials Claim a Kinder, Gentler Airport Security: Barbara S. Peterson on the "What's Your Lane?" program, plus an update
* Responsible Traveler: Making a difference


click to post a comment >

About this blog
The editors at Conde Nast Traveler answer questions and share travel secrets, tips, and dispatches

Twitter: CNTraveler
Email: Daily updates



Featured in Alltop

Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

EXPRESS SIGN-UP Sign up for one of our exciting panels and receive the latest news, travel offers, and event invitations from Condé Nast Traveler and our valued advertising partners.
Traveler Magazine




I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its User Agreement, Privacy Policy, and Mobile Terms and Conditions.

iPhone App:

Create personalized postcards out of your favorite travel photos!

Learn More ›
Subscribe to our free RSS feeds:

Get the latest destinations picks, hot hotel lists, travel deals and blog posts automatically added to your newsreader or your personalized homepage.

Learn More ›

Special Advertisement

Contests, Sweepstakes & Promotions