A Mood Change at Security Checkpoints

New York Times
Rachel Harris, October 31, 2013


Mood lighting and upbeat music aren’t revolutionary ideas for romancing a date, but they may be for wooing travelers at airport security checkpoints. At least that’s the hope of the creators of a new security experience being tested at the Charlotte-Douglas and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airports over the next few months.

With direction from Security Point Media, an airport advertising company, the approval of the Transportation Security Administration and funding from Spring Hill Suites by Marriott, one checkpoint at each airport received a makeover.

Passengers entering the lines are greeted by pastel LED lighting and giant prints of leaves, flowing water and flowers on the walls. Directional speakers play music from Internet radio stations and announce instructions from the T.S.A., and flat-screen monitors display wait times for the line and updates from the airport.

Once on the other side, travelers are able to tie their shoes and adjust their shirttails in an area set up with plush sofas, rugs, high-top tables and mirrors, all care of Spring Hill Suites.

The scene resembles something “much more like the lobby of a four-star hotel than an industrial area,” Joseph T. Ambrefe, the chief executive of Security Point, told The Charlotte Observer. It’s a visual that will be hard to forget considering that Spring Hill Suites’ return on its investment is plenty of wall-size advertising in a space where travelers are temporarily captive.

Nothing the hotel has contributed, however, will slow down the process of getting through security, Craig Fowler, a senior marketing director for Spring Hill Suites, told The Observer. Although it remains unclear whether the enhancements will actually help travelers move through the lines faster.

“It’s a little too early to quantify those improvements,” Mr. Ambrefe said on the phone Wednesday morning, two weeks after the project began. “There are efficiencies that are driven by a combination of factors, including improved traveler messaging, both the audio and video, that help prepare them better for the screening process; and then there’s the implementation of our patented secure trays, which are designed to reduce the number of screened images per traveler and to simplify those images for the screener. And that helps the line move faster.”

But it’s really the holistic approach to the process that makes it a better experience for travelers, Mr. Ambrefe said. “That’s really where the big win is.”

A review of the service in early January will determine whether it will expand to more terminals and other airports, and whether Marriott will continue as a partner.

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