D/FW aims for kinder, gentler security checkpoint

Dallas News
Julie Fancher, December 8, 2013

Gone are the gray benches, fluorescent lights and TSA agents shouting instructions. Just in time for the craziness of holiday travel, a security checkpoint at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is designed to calm travelers while cutting waiting times.

The checkpoint at Gate E18 now features soothing music, colorful lighting and comfortable couches, making travelers feel as though they’ve reached the hotel before even getting on a flight.

D/FW partnered with the Transportation Security Administration, Florida-based SecurityPoint Media and Marriott’s SpringHill Suites to craft the “Next Level” checkpoint. SpringHill Suites, which is sponsoring the new checkpoint, paid for the $500,000 in renovations in turn for advertising.

The D/FW site is one of only two nationally that launched in October for a three-month trial. The other is at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport in North Carolina.

“It’s a total experience,” SecurityPoint Media CEO Joseph Ambrefe said. “There is some science behind it, how everything comes together to create a better experience and create efficiency, better wait times and calms the travelers down.”

Bob Blankenship, assistant vice president for planning at D/FW, said the airport wanted to make sure it was doing everything it could to keep travelers happy.

“We recognize that the security checkpoint is very critical to the overall terminal, travel experience,” he said.

He hopes that if travelers have a positive experience through security, lines will move faster.

For travelers, the “Next Level” experience begins before they take off their shoes or pull out their laptops.

There are couches and tables for travelers to use as they prepare to go through the lines.

Nature scenes and color-changing lights line the walls.

Blankenship said the elements were chosen to help passengers feel calm.

“We wanted something dynamic,” he said. “We decided to put in the soothing pastel light show and then images, deliberately nature pictures that are Zen-like and create a sense of calmness.”

Video monitors keep travelers apprised of wait times as music from the Marriott’s lobby plays in the background.

At the airport Sunday, Don Downs of Denver said he thought the videos were useful for travelers who would otherwise wonder how long they would be in line.

“It seems like it will help alleviate frustration and answer any questions TSA agents may not be able to answer,” he said.

After travelers go through the scanners, there is an area for them to put their shoes back on before heading to their gate.

Blankenship said the response from passengers has been positive. He said he has even seen a change in TSA agents who work in Terminal E.

“We have noticed passengers coming through seem to be a lot more relaxed; there are a lot more smiles,” he said.

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