WASHINGTON — At least 41 airports are flocking to adopt a screening program that offers relaxed security lanes for families and fast lanes for expert travelers, the federal government said Monday.
The idea to segregate passengers was launched at two airports in February by the Transportation Security Administration.
It quickly gathered interest and is now offered at 21 airports, including Los Angeles International, Seattle-Tacoma and Boston's Logan.
Twenty more airports plan to use the "self-select" program this summer. New York's Kennedy and LaGuardia will start this month, the TSA said.
"We can't keep up with the demand," said Earl Morris, the TSA security chief in Salt Lake City who leads a team helping airports start the program.
The self-select program sets up "family lanes" at checkpoints aimed at parents with children. Also available are "expert lanes" for veteran travelers, and "casual lanes" for people who fly a few times a year.
Screening is the same in each lane. The program is voluntary, though TSA screeners often direct passengers to lanes that seem appropriate for them.
"It really gives those passengers the ability to take their time and not have a business traveler breathing down their neck," said Brigitte Goersch, head of security at Orlando International Airport, which launched the program in May.
Airports embrace the program because they "are willing to do anything that looks like it can improve efficiency at the checkpoint," said Airports Council International security chief Charles Chambers.
Expert lanes are handling an average of 21 percent more passengers per hour, Morris said. Family lanes are running slightly slower than regular lanes.
Josh Holmberg of Denver didn't mind using family lanes with his wife and two children, ages 18 months and 3, at the Denver and Salt Lake City airports. "The process is much more relaxed," he said.
Reagan Allen said the program made the normally jammed checkpoint at Portland International Airport in Oregon "a lot smoother" when he flew home to Austin on Friday.
But Hunter Wolfe of Salt Lake City said he's been in expert lanes behind families and novice travelers who have to be told to remove shoes and jewelry. "It slows down the whole process," Wolfe said.
Five trace portals machines are operational at SLC; one is at the International Terminal checkpoint, with two each at the Terminal One and Terminal Two security checkpoints.
$1 million in security costs have been paid with change.
TSA Pre-Check is now available to eligible passengers at Memphis International Airport (MEM).