security checkpoint

Cool checkpoint makeover at Oakland International Airport

Thanks to a creative makeover, theTerminal 2 security checkpoint at Oakland International Airport (OAK) is now an oasis of calming sounds and images that help ease the anxiety and frustration often associated with travel.

Here’s what it looked by before:

Now the area offers passengers the sights and sounds of a California redwood forest, a blue sky filled with puffy cloudsand a 1,500-square foot “living wall” filled with plants that act as natural air filters.

Even the bins have calming messages.

Nice, right?

The TSA-approved project at OAK was created by Florida-based SecurityPoint Media and comes to us courtesy of Oakland-based health care company Kaiser Permanente and Southwest Airlines.

The hydroponic, soilless, living wall covers the entire west wall of the checkpoint area and has 34 different type of plane species, including 13 that help clean indoor air naturally and improve the ambient environment.

There are also large white “clouds” suspended from the checkpoint and atrium ceiling.

Speakers emit the sounds of birds chirping, waterflowing and other soothing sounds of nature.

Messages on panels throughout thecheckpoint encourage passengers to “breathe in,” “relax” and “thrive.” 

And, just past the security checkpoint, there are hydration stations where passengers can refill their water bottles.

Enjoy the made-over checkpoint while you can: the installation is only scheduled to be there only through early 2019, though it is so popular that it the project (and funding) may be extended. 

Relaxing checkpoint at Oakland Int’l Airport

OAK Springhill

Travelers heading home through Oakland International Airport at the end of this holiday weekend will no doubt be thankful for two new on-site amenities.

In addition to the one-month old “BART to OAK” people mover train service running between Oakland International Airport and the BART Coliseum station, OAK is sporting a new SpringHill Suites “Experience Zone” security checkpoint area in Terminal Two (home of Southwest Airlines).

OAK is the fourth airport to get one of these reworked checkpoints, which offers modern furniture, wall art, calming lighting, soothing music and 15-foot-wide video projection screen. There are also screens showing the current wait times and a post-screening “recompose” area.

Serene security checkpoint for ORD Airport

It happened at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and and Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Now security checkpoint 3 in Terminal 1 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport has gotten a temporary “chill-out” makeover too.

At least for the summer.


SpringHill Suites by Marriott, working with the Transportation Security Administration and airport advertising companies, has made the checkpoint look more like a relaxing hotel lobby than a sterile airport checkpoint by adding modern furniture, a video wall, calming lighting, soothing music and comfortable seating before and after the checkpoint.

During the promotion, SpringHill Suites has promised to bring over surprises and giveaways so travelers will keep “smiling along their journey.”

It’s all good, except for the fact that the checkpoint lounge will likely not last beyond the busy summer travel season.


Montreal Airport offers reserved checkpoint slots

MOntreal Airport

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.

“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.

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.”

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.”

(My story about Montreal Airport’s program offering reserved times for passing through security first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior)


One bag? Use the express lane at PIT airport

Supermarkets have them, so why not airports?

(From my story on’s Overhead Bin)

Air travelers trying to avoid checked luggage fees by taking along extra – or extra large – carry-on bags often clog up the works at security checkpoints.

But passengers flying out of Pittsburgh International Airport now have incentive to pack light and check those bags.

As of Tuesday, September 13, 2001, travelers with just one carry-on item are able to breeze through the airport’s new Express Security Lane, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.

“Traffic has been increasing at our airport, and the checkpoint lines have been getting longer. This could pull up to 25 percent of the people out of the longer line and improve everyone’s experience,” said Bradley Penrod, executive director/CEO for the Allegheny County Airport Authority.

The express line received approval from the Transportation Security Administration and will be staffed by security officers who will send passengers with both a carry-on bag and another item, such as a computer bag or purse, to one of the other, non-express, checkpoint lines. Jackets will be allowed, but not carry-ons larger than 22″ by 14″ by 9″.

“The program at Pittsburgh International Airport is one example of TSA partnering with airports to improve the passenger experience, while providing world-class security,” said TSA spokesperson Greg Soule.

Frequent flier and registered traveler programs already promise some travelers a quicker path to the secure side of many of the nation’s more than 450 commercial airports, but Pittsburgh airport officials believe they’ve come up with a novel, universally accessible idea.

“Even TSA couldn’t confirm we were the first airport to do this,” said Penrod. “But we expect if it works here, other airports will start offering express lanes as well.”