Serene In Security

Aug. 4, 2014
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport launches passenger-pleasing, lounge-like checkpoints

Warm and inviting are two words passengers would never use to describe airport security checkpoints.

“Checkpoints are pretty bleak, very government issue. Everything is stainless steel, white, industrial and very, very sterile,” says Bob Blankenship, assistant vice president of planning for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

But do they have to be that way?

Blankenship says, “No.”

 After a three-month pilot program that began in October at both DFW and Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the airport which serves 6.2 million passengers annually from the Lone Star State, decided to make its lounge-like security checkpoint in Terminal E a permanent fixture.

At the onset of the airport’s Terminal Renewal and Improvement Program (TRIP), the airport’s Tiger Team identified three areas to address at security checkpoints. They included enhancing the physical space, improving communications, and providing customer conveniences.

What began as a joint project between the airport, Security Point Media and Marriott’s SpringHill Suites, is a vast departure from the stark and sterile look of most passenger checkpoints. Visitors moving through this checkpoint are greeted with stylish décor, soothing wall art, colored lights and relaxing music as well as “re-composure areas” outfitted with leather couches and mirrors.

“The area’s red couch is its claim to fame,” says Blankenship. “The color-changing light show that changes the walls from pastel pink to blue to green also captures passengers’ attention and calms them down.”

The airport beefed up communications with video monitors throughout the queue area, each designed to serve a specific purpose. Some monitors display the divesting process, reminding passengers to remove their belts and shoes, take laptops out of their cases and follow the 3-1-1 liquids rule. “These messages clean up the checkpoints,” says Blankenship. “We’ve found the monitors are more effective [than TSA personnel reminding passengers] because people like to look at moving pictures. It really catches their attention.”

Wait time management monitors estimate the processing times, which Blankenship says has been particularly effective. “These monitors help us manage customer expectations,” he says. “There is a benefit in letting customers know what’s in store for them.”

Amenities monitors communicate the concessions and retail options that are available post security. Concessionaires and retailers can place customized messages on these monitors to highlight their services and location.

“My personal goal is to make this the best wait of your life,” says Blankenship. To that end he has succeeded. Though the checkpoint wait times did not improve during the pilot, passenger’ impressions of their wait did. “Passengers feel like they’re going through faster. That’s because they don’t mind it; it’s not a bad experience. And in their minds, that equates to going through faster,” he says.

Though the partnership with Spring Hill ended with the pilot program, the airport plans to forge on. DFW has incorporated the new checkpoint experience into its standards and has invested $300,000 to retrofit all of Terminal D’s checkpoints. Blankenship adds plans are to eventually retrofit every security checkpoints in the airport.

“Our ultimate goal is happy customers,” he says. “That being said, our tests also indentified the potential for advertising revenue in these areas [on the amenities monitors].

“This is a win-win situation,” he continues. “It’s good for the passenger experience and the airport’s reputation, but because of the revenue potential it also has a financial payback. It’s not an intangible nebulous improvement that is done just for the sake of being nice.”