air, airport, security, travel

The Future: An Early Arrival at Love Field?

More and more people fly and the joy the experience brings has been at a continuous ebb since well before 9-11. We all know it is a drudge, and many of us remember it being different.

So, it’s not hard to see why brainstorming and daydreaming the Future of Air Travel™ is something of a cottage industry.

For examples, see:
Aviation Industry Researchers Predict Major Airport Overhauls Over the Next 15 Years,
Biometrics Will Enable the Takeoffs of Tomorrow, or
IATA Floats Airport Security Revamp

But most of us won’t need examples. We’ve had plenty of time to write all three of the above posts and the articles they reference while waiting our turn behind the travelers who arrived before us at the security checks to participate in the security ritual.

As Charles Dudley Warner* once said, “Everybody talks about how lame air travel has become, but nobody does anything about it.”

Until now…

‘Checkpoint of the future’ takes shape at Texas airport (USA Today)

At a terminal being renovated here at Love Field, contractors are installing 500 high-definition security cameras sharp enough to read an auto license plate or a logo on a shirt.

The cameras, capable of tracking passengers from the parking garage to gates to the tarmac, are a key first step in creating what the airline industry would like to see at airports worldwide: a security apparatus that would scrutinize passengers more thoroughly, but less intrusively, and in faster fashion than now.

According to this article, it’s actually being built, now, at Love Field, the spiritual and corporate home of Southwest Airlines.

This comes not a moment too soon. Another tidbit of the article sheds light on how the status quo just can’t hold:

The Federal Aviation Administration projects the number of passengers flying inside the USA will nearly double in the next 20 years, to 1.2 billion. Security has slowed since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Before then, about 350 people passed through checkpoints each hour, the IATA says. A November survey at 142 airports found processing times fell to 149 an hour, with the worst at 60, Dunlap says.

The math buried in this paragraph just doesn’t work out. The number of air passengers simply can’t double in the next twenty years if the current trend in security throughput continues.

Either:
1. Due to a lack of security capacity, passengers will be unable to get to their planes in time (or they will have to arrive at the airport so early that many will opt to drive to their destination), or
2. Expanding the current security apparatus to handle twice the volume will drive up the cost of air travel affecting demand.

Incremental change will no longer do. Each additional security hurdle added in response to a novel security threat brings the entire system one step closer to collapse. The air travel industry’s future depends not upon a rethink (Future of Air Travel™) but on a radical reinvention and implementation of the security apparatus.

Thankfully, unlike the weather, someone’s finally doing something about it. Biometrics can, and will, help.

 *Not Mark Twain

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