Prohibiting Express Elite Security Lines at Airports: Is That Fair?
Ben Nelson, a United States Senator representing the state of Nebraska, recently introduced the Air Passenger Fairness Act of 2012 “to promote fairness for all air travel passengers by barring airlines and airport operators from using express security lines that allow for certain groups of air passengers to cut to the front of the” line of security checkpoints at airports in the United States.
His argument is that “this bill is about fairness. Regardless of whether you have a first-class ticket or have reached a certain frequent flier status, the purpose of the airport security screening line is to ensure traveler safety. Allowing a select few to cut in front of those who are waiting patiently, just in order to provide a perk, has nothing to do with safety.” Huh?!?
Perhaps the Senator representing Nebraska does not travel often, but the supposed purpose of express elite security lines at airports is to allow those who travel frequently to save time. It is a perk of being an elite member of a frequent flier loyalty program designed to ease one aspect of the trials and tribulations associated with travel — and it is a perk that is certainly earned, as one is usually required to travel a minimum of 25,000 miles within a year waiting in airport security checkpoint lines just like everyone else in order to become eligible for that perk. Imagine how much time a person who travels 100,000 miles per year must waste waiting in line if there were no express elite lines at airport security checkpoints. What a deterrent that would be regarding frequent travel — at least for me — if express elite security checkpoint lines at airports were prohibited.
By the way, there have been plenty of times where I experienced longer waits in those special express elite lines than in the queues in the regular security checkpoint lines at airports.
The Air Passenger Fairness Act of 2012 would not affect PreCheck, the current program administered by the Transportation Security Administration which airline passengers can use to apply for pre-screening clearance that may expedite their security screenings at designated locations in select airports. It also would not prohibit an airline or airport operator from setting up express lines for disabled passengers.
In other words, you either have to be legally disabled or pay for the privilege of expedited screening at airport security checkpoints if this bill becomes law.
I have a better idea: why not alleviate the wait times for all passengers if there is such a concern about fairness? For example, instead of having Transportation Security Administration agents performing random security checks at airport gates, which many FlyerTalk members — including myself — believe perform no useful purpose or function whatsoever, how about having them operate those security checkpoint lanes that are usually closed, especially when the lines are long?
Airport security checkpoints are similar to the teller counters at banks and the checkout lanes at supermarkets: they build a lot of stations but seem to never use all of them at once — even when there are long lines of people waiting to be served and anxious to move on. It seems wasteful to build all of those stations if they are not going to be used to alleviate long lines. Why do they do that?!?
There are a plethora of aspects to the airport security checkpoint experience that require a far greater priority than “fairness” for people waiting in line, in my opinion. I hope that Nelson will realize that and use his time more efficiently for more important and pressing matters which currently impact upon his constituents.