Airport lets fliers reserve security front-of-line time slot
Most travelers dread waiting in long lines at airport security checkpoints.
And even though airline VIP programs and the TSA Precheck program promise to expedite the experience, it's not unusual to find extensive checkpoint waiting lines.
Now, one airport is offering an easy way to reliably—and legitimately—cut to the front of the line.
Passengers using Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International can enter their flight number on the airport's website and receive a text message with a reserved time for a designated checkpoint. Travelers show up at their assigned time window and use the text message as a ticket to enter the SecurXpress priority line.
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"The system is free to the general public and a bit like the Disney FASTPASS system," said Francois-Nicola Asselin, spokesman for Aéroports de Montréal, referring to the theme park's program that lets guests return to a crowded ride at a specific time. "It was imagined through a brainstorming session to improve customer service."
Once it came up with the idea, the airport asked the company already contracted to send flight alerts to travelers to develop a system for the checkpoint reservation concept.
Rolled out this fall, the program has already been used by thousands of travelers and "allows us to more evenly distribute the passenger flow at the checkpoint," Asselin said. "Therefore, not only people using it benefit from an improved service, but all passengers, since the peak period is better distributed."
For now, SecurXpress is available only at Trudeau for those traveling within Canada and, because of preclearance requirements, on non-U.S. bound international flights.
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The program is likely to appear at other airports in 2014.
"We are always interested in looking at ways to improve the customer experience throughout the airport," said Heath Montgomery, spokesman for Denver International, "So we'll watch to see how Montreal's new service works."
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While passengers and airports could be enthusiastic about the program, carriers may not like it, said Hudson Crossing travel analyst Henry Harteveldt.
"Travelers who earn 'elite' status in an airline's loyalty program may be eligible for access to priority security lines at an airport, and this reduces the need for a traveler to be loyal to an airline."
—By Harriet Baskas, special to CNBC.com. Baskas is the author of seven books, including "Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can't or Won't Show You," and the Stuck at the Airport blog. Follow her on Twitter at @hbaskas. Follow Road Warrior at @CNBCtravel.