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Sky Harbor debuts 'diamonds'

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Posted: Wednesday, August 27, 2008 5:58 pm

Expert travelers now can slalom through the black diamond lanes at a Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport checkpoint.

The Transportation Security Administration launched the ski-inspired lane-labeling system at Terminal 4, Checkpoint D, which serves mostly Southwest Airlines passengers.

The government quietly sneaked the new system into the local airport Monday.

"So far, so good," said Deb Ostreicher, Sky Harbor deputy aviation director. "Everything is running smoothly."

If it works well, all Sky Harbor checkpoints that have enough maneuver room will eventually get the system, said Nico Melendez, TSA spokesman.

The TSA dubs the concept "self select," but it's more commonly known as the "black diamond" system, and, in fact, it uses the black diamond, blue square and green circle symbols that designate expert, intermediate and beginner trails on ski mountains.

The idea, Melendez said, is to move people through a checkpoint at their own pace.

It allows families or other travelers who need extra time to get shoes off and negotiate changing security rules to pass through without feeling rushed or intimidated by impatient travelers tailgating, he said.

And it allows the busy business passenger, who arrives at the checkpoint with shoes and baggie of mini-sized toiletries in hand, to pass through swiftly.

People decide which of the three lanes fits their needs, although TSA personnel try to guide them toward the best fit, Melendez said.

At the 35 airports that have installed the system so far, there has been a 30 percent overall reduction in checkpoint wait times, Melendez said.

As for potential "lane rage" caused by a beginner clogging an expert lane, for example, Melendez said that's mostly just caused dirty looks.

"It's like a supermarket checkout lane for 15 items or less, and somebody gets in the lane with a full basket," he said. "For the most part, the passengers just glare."

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