Airport Security Is a Drag

Photo: Creatas

Going through security at U.S. airports is a continuing nuisance. One technology improvement that I saw at Brussels Airport is simple:  the conveyor on which you place your computer, bag, etc., slopes downward toward the x-ray machine, so that there is no need to drag bins and bags along the conveyor. Moreover, there is an adjacent conveyor that tilts backward toward the rear of the belt on which the staff can place a pile of used bins.

These devices save passenger time and are labor-saving for the security company too — no need for the workers to drag the bins by hand or hand-truck to the rear of the belt. Are we slow to innovate (how un-American that would be!) or does cheap semi-skilled labor reduce the incentive to substitute capital for labor?

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  1. Quinton says:

    Being awfully generous with that semi-skilled. I have serious doubts that airport security has ever foiled a single terrorist act.

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  2. Gary says:

    I used to travel through Brussels airport every week. The downward sloping conveyors aside, it is one of the WORST security check airports I have ever come across. Mind you, worse still is Frankfurt, where the staff are so badly organised they spend approx 90% of their time doing nothing. I once pointed this out to one of them who shrugged and agreed. Maybe they were just matching the customer experience, which involves a lot of waiting time for very little checking time.

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  3. MRB says:

    I think an issue is that the people that security, the airport facility, and the airline companies are seperated – why do the security folks care about how fast the process the line? They’re paid for their time, so they can’t work quickly and economize, and they don’t take a hit when passengers miss planes or don’t have time to do some compulsion shopping in the concourse.

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  4. Paul Robichaux says:

    Contrast this with the conveyors at the Southwest Airlines side of SAN: the metal table that leads up to the X-ray machine’s belt is angled *upwards* to make it harder to drag items into it. Thanks for that, TSA.

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  5. KevinM says:

    OK, but what I picture is myself awkwardly trying to remove my right shoe while the little bin containing my left shoe drifts downstream.

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  6. Mark Kerrigan says:

    I used to work at the airport for a summer and what I found slows the line down most is how many people are first time travelers. Anyone who is well practiced and knows what to expect will go through faster. Unfortunately, that type of traveler does not represent the majority of the traveling public.

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  7. Eric M. Jones says:

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  8. uma says:

    Actually, in all the US airports I’ve been to (Boston Logan, Miami, San Francisco, among others), people push their own bags through to the x-ray machines, not airport staff.

    So it’s not a matter of paying for semi-skilled labor vs. substituting capital, but rather substituting capital for something the airports don’t currently pay for! It’s free labor.

    And if no one has complained, they have no reason to pay extra to change it. You’d be hard pressed to imply that making people go through security faster results in savings for the AIRPORT.

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    • lilgerry says:

      That is the germ of a great idea… why not simply organize the passengers to check each other? They’d have a better incentive to get it right and would follow instructions better than the TSA folks, and probably be much more reasonable and thoughtful about the search.

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