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Zip Lane

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Hi! I’ve just come back from Burbank where the TSA has been piloting a few suggestions posted by bloggers such as you.

We’ve tested the "Zip Lane" ("If all your carry-ons fit under the seat in front of you, Zip On Through!"). And you know what? It was a rousing success! Not only did lines move quicker but the mood changed: Transportation Security Officers noted that Zip Lane passengers smiled more. :)

Zip Lane is now a permanent feature of the Burbank security checkpoint.

How do I qualify as a Zip Lane Passenger?

  • Travel from Burbank between either 06:00-08:00h or 16:00-18:00h.
  • Make sure all your carry-on luggage fits beneath the seat in front of you. If you have larger luggage, consider checking it.
  • That’s it!

How do I know which lane is the Zip Lane?
  • Look for posted signs.
  • Ask any Transportation Security Officer.

What if I’m not traveling from Burbank?
  • We hope to be bringing Zip Lanes to other airports soon.

Please keep in mind that the lane is monitored, so don’t waste your time trying to sneak into the Zip Lane with an elephant. (Stuffed elephants that fit under the seat in front of you are ok.)

If you’re looking to zip through security, check out the Zip Lane at Burbank, open to passengers with small luggage traveling between 06:00-08:00h and 16:00-18:00h.

Try it out, tell us what you think, and keep sending in your great ideas!


Submitted by DoogieSD on

I like it! Spread it around ...

Submitted by Jay Maynard on

I prefer the Salt Lake City/Denver system...because I will never be able to travel with just one carryon: I carry a briefcase with a laptop, and a CPAP that goes in a separate case with some accessories. The two won't fit under the seat together.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Yet another line to choose. Instead of having a streamline system in order to process everybody, it seems the decision is being made to separate everybody into unique categories.

What's next?

No carry on? One Carry on? One Carry on w/ computer? 1st time traveller? With and without family?

Instead of having a single process which is designed to check the maximum number of people in the shortest amount of time, we'll have dozens of lines each one moving at glacial speed because the process itself will still be the same broken system

Submitted by Jay Maynard on

anonymous@2:31AM, the reality is that the TSA has to deal with different people with different levels of experience and different amounts of stuff they need to travel with. One size will never fit all. As long as they think they need to paw through people's possessions and grope some of them, they'll always have folks going through the lines at different speeds. This, and the Salt Lake City/Denver lanes, are ways to address that problem.

I agree that the real answer is to get rid of the massive, systematic civil rights violations and restore the traveling public's privacy rights, but it'll never happen.

Submitted by Anonymous on

If the intent of TSA is to get the most people processed in the shortest amount of time, zip lanes make sense.

If security is a consideration, then TSA should be searching all bags and people entering the gate in the same fashion. A thorough search of all property and person should be made. This includes strip searches and body cavity searches of all passengers, flight crew and maintenance/aircraft service personnel. Having worked in a prison, I know that the process of an in depth is the only method of ensuring weapons and contraband do not pass a screening.

If the purpose of TSA is to get the passengers through the checking process quickly, then I suggest they have foot races for the passengers through the line. Then, really, why have TSA?

Submitted by Frank on

Let's see if I understand this. SLC and DEN have Black Diamond, Blue and Green lanes with no reported time restriction. BUR has Zip lanes but with a time restriction, and a carry-on size restriction. What if my carry-on fits in the overhead but not under the seat, can I still use Zip? If I have a carry-on and a personal item both of which fit under the seat will that be OK to use Zip.

Will other airports have different lane designations and restrictions/limitations? How many variations will TSA employ around the country? Since skiing is not prevalent nationwide will Black/Blue/Green make sense in MIA? SAN? MCO? MSY?

I use all three of these airports but will need to approach security in at least two different ways. You have probably noticed in many of the posted comments across all your blogs the request for standardization. How will different terminology and different requirements at different airports help with standardization?


Submitted by Mike E on

Seems like one of the most common complaints in all the comments on this blog is the TSA lacks consistent procedures across all airports.

It's interesting that the response is to create unique procedures at various airports (and even times of day at the same airport!).

I look forward to when all airports have a color code to indicate which procedures are in effect at that particular hour. Of course, these procedures would then be unique to that airport only. That's going to be great. I won't need to go on exciting vacations anymore, I can just head over to LAX and try to make it through security without getting yelled at!

Submitted by Anonymous on

FYI, the "anonymous" air marshalls who wear hawaiin shirts and who cut the security line, being waved through without having their bags scanned, are no longer anonymous. Just a tip for you guys.

Submitted by Dennis on

If the TSA wanted to let people zip by, it would do the following:

1. Stop checking IDs. The ID check is easily circumvented by printing a fake boarding pass (and people can fly without an ID anyway), so it's a waste of time and money.

2. Stop requiring people to remove shoes. Anything that could be carried in a shoe could be smuggled in someone's underwear or pants pocket.

3. End the fetish with liquids. Eliminate the 3-1-1 limit and return the rules to what they were before August 2006.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous, the individual could just be a Law Enforcement Officer traveling on business. It might not have been an air marshall.

Submitted by Shari on

i agree with the other comments. it's not an issue of creating more lanes for certain types of travelers, but rather training your employees to react to different types of travelers so everyone can move more efficiently. if you see someone struggling to reach the grey bins (often out of reach behind the conveyor belt!!) help them! if you see someone looking confused, assist them - don't yell at them. everyone would be much happier and even smile if we weren't so aggrivated with TSA staff being unhelpful and argumentative. And yes, i have had trips where the TSA staff was excellent but unfortunately that experience is few and far between. If travelers didn't fear retaliation and resent having to deal with the TSA employee personalities we've come to expect then the lines would move smoother regardless of whether they have one bag or two.

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

Frank: as TSA has explained ... both the Zip-Line experiment and the SLC experiment are just that: experiments. We have to allow TSA to try new ideas out on a small scale before pushing them to all airports at once.

I'm all in favor of consistency in procedures, believe me ... but running pilot studies is completely appropriate as well.

Submitted by Anonymous on

since I can't post it there, I'll post it here. Beyond national security or threats, does the government have the right to censor a public forum for profanity, off target, etc.? I don't think you do. I think the 1st Amendment says you're not allowed to censor...

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

Anonymous: you need to read the First Amendment you cite.

Congress can't pass a law abridging freedom of speech, or the press. That doesn't imply that a Federal agency can't pick and choose what words, if any, it chooses to publish on its public webpages (which are, after all, what a blog is).

Submitted by Anonymous on

Treat everyone equally. Separate lines only complicate a process. The trouble is that no one quite understands the rules now, not even your own TSA employees. Travelers have better things to do than memorize all the rules, changes, addendums, modifications, orders and advisories that a government agency provides. Why complicate things? We have the IRS for that.

If you are serious on security, the inmate inspired body check is necessary for everyone, even the federal employees on holiday or duty. Once the traveler is checked, they should be required to separated from the rest of the public through either separate clothing, or indelible dye stamp. This should indicate the time and gate of the traveler's flight.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So I just traveled commercially again for the first time in a few months and noticed something that makes me think even less of the TSA and the supposed security they provide. (As impossible as I thought that was!) At my point of origin (SEA) I had the fortune of going through security at what must have been a shift change for a few of the companies operating beyond security (restaurants, etc.). As I and all the other passengers (included uniformed soldiers getting deployed to the quagmire that is Iraq) were forced to remove our shoes (or combat boots in the soldiers' case) so they could be x-rayed I noted that the airport employees were not held to the same requirement. It took me approximately half a second to notice this and realize numerous ways to exploit such a loophole.

For example, something tells me that most McDonald's or Burger King employees (even if they work at the airport) are not making much more than minimum wage. Because of that, I suspect that with a proper financial incentive they may be willing to provide aid in getting some diabolical substance (like maybe a gel insole) through security in their, completely laced and un-x-rayed, shoes. Then it would be a simple matter to transfer said substance to someone who was booked on a flight whether they simply hand the contraband over or trade shoes really doesn't matter. So with such a blatant glaring hole in "Operation Barefoot" why do you (the TSA) continue this farce? I mean I am just a typical passenger with no malicious intent (and who was half asleep at the time) and I quickly noticed the idiocy of the whole thing. Do you really think someone motivated to cause harm wouldn't?

Of course this is completely ignoring the fact that anything I could shove in my shoes that wouldn't set off the metal detector could just as easily be taped to my leg or shoved in my underwear to remain unnoticed. I guess I just get to look forward to the TSA eventually realizing such cleverness and institute "Operation Panty Raid" and "Operation No Pants" to detect such a witty ploy.

Submitted by Kathy on

Jim....thank you so much for realizing that the government MUST pilot test ideas before implementing them across the country. Without test runs, you can see how much messier things would become.

Which leads me to say thank you to frequent travelers who are willing to take their personal time to make suggestions and let us know their concerns. The TSA is watching this blog daily, using it as a national brainstorming tool to look for helpful suggestions or solutions to make our safey as thorough, yet comfortable as humanly possible.

To the passenger who had concerns about restaurant workers not being required to remove their shoes....excellent observation! But these employees possess a local airport ID that was not issued without scrutiny. The badging of these employees is handled through a cohesion between the airport authority and that particular local's law enforcement. Background checks are performed before issuance. is, for us, sometimes embarrassing to have the defenders of our country take off their boots and divest, and undergo screening. However, I'm sure everyone is aware of the "army surplus" stores making military garb readily available.....for ANYONE.

Recently, a person was identified and then arrested, at an airport (I believe in Florida) attempting to pass himself off as an Army Soldier. This person was identified through the observation that his hair was too long for military regulations, and the insignia on his uniform did not match.

Generally speaking, it has been my experience in screening Military Personnel, that they have been briefed on the necessity of their being screened while traveling in public, commercial airlines. We are briefed to treat them with the utmost respect while providing thorough security. They rarely balk when treated with respect, and they understand our position.

Thank you for your contributions!

Submitted by Txrus on

Kathy said:

To the passenger who had concerns about restaurant workers not being required to remove their shoes....excellent observation! But these employees possess a local airport ID that was not issued without scrutiny. The badging of these employees is handled through a cohesion between the airport authority and that particular local's law enforcement. Background checks are performed before issuance.
A background check will turn up past evidence of wrong-doing; it does nothing to illuminate FUTURE intent.

I believe the screener(s) in ATL were just arrested for smuggling drugs passed one of your background checks, right?

'Nuff said.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Zip Line" -
A light line that you pull to quickly seperate attached objects from another object.
A rapid delivery procedure involving near free-fall of the descending object guided only by a thin line from above and behind.

Either definition is not a pretty thought when applied to security.

Submitted by Anonymous on
To the passenger who had concerns about restaurant workers not being required to remove their shoes....excellent observation! But these employees possess a local airport ID that was not issued without scrutiny. The badging of these employees is handled through a cohesion between the airport authority and that particular local's law enforcement. Background checks are performed before issuance. is, for us, sometimes embarrassing to have the defenders of our country take off their boots and divest, and undergo screening. However, I'm sure everyone is aware of the "army surplus" stores making military garb readily available.....for ANYONE.

You seem to be under the mistaken impression that:

1) The people serving in the military do not undergo background checks. I don't know that I've ever met an enlistee or officer that did not have some sort of security clearance. Heck even a fair number ROTC cadets at my university had "Secret" security clearances (and from my understanding it was a requirement before getting a commission). If you think a security clearance screening isn't thorough (or less thorough than what would be required to get any sort of badge the airport or you provide) I believe you should look at the information required to get a security clearance.

2) You also seem to think a uniform is the only indication someone is a member of our military. Remarkably the armed forces also issue things commonly referred to as "military ID cards". These are federally issued identification cards that uniquely identify someone as a member of our military. Can they be forged? Probably. Can your "airport badges" be forged? Almost certainly.

3) Further, you seem to think that once the employee has gone through whatever background check is mandated they are guaranteed to never be tempted to compromise their morals no matter how lucrative an offer is made. You may be of the opinion that those screened people are "good" but if you think they can't be tempted I'm afraid you are living in a dream world that I thought most intelligent people knew wasn't reality.

4) Finally you neglected to address the fact that basically any contraband that could be hidden in someone's shoe could just as easily be stuffed under their shirt or in their pants. I mean does the TSA seriously see the shoe as some sort of unique storage vessel for "bad stuff"? If they do I suggest they talk to people that are more familiar with screening people and searching for illicit materials (or anything else someone might be trying to hide). Some ideas to get you started: US Customs agents (conveniently right at the airport; assuming you have a port of entry), US Coast Guard personnel, Police Officers, Prison Guards, Mall Security or others. Ask them how many people have hidden stuff in their shoes compared to say under their shirt, in their underwear or even in a body cavity. Next ask them how creative people can be if they don't want you to find something and they know you will search them. I'm sure their answers would be very illuminating.
Submitted by Johnee on

Anonymous said: I don't know that I've ever met an enlistee or officer that did not have some sort of security clearance.

Nice to meet you. Been in the Navy for some time, and neither I, nor sixty of the guys that work for me have a clearance.

Those with a clearance have one on a "need to know basis" and most in the military don't have the "need to know."

Submitted by Anonymous on

Jim, I have read it. It also means that a Federal agency can't stifle free debate and discussion, especially that in a public forum (which this is). This isn't a static brochure. The internet is more like a town hall meeting. Would you want the government to determine what was and was not "appropriate" at a meeting like that? NO! So I again ask, what right do they have to censor comments that don't deal with national security here? I would say none

Submitted by Anonymous on

I can state that FLL Terminal F does not have a ZIP lane., it's more like a "stuck in the mud line".

As of 1600, 1 March 2008, TSA processing was extremely SLOW.

Two TSA types checking ID, one giving the once over to a person who had a sticker extending the expiration date of the DL. Intervention by the other checker resolved the question in favor of the traveler. I was not challenged over the "Indef" expiration date on my Retired DOD ID. This process took entirely to long.

Another crowd of TSA types herding people into the xray/wtmd area's.

Only 10 or so people in front of me and it still took over 15 minutes to clear the area. If things had been busy I think this group would have caused any number of flyers to miss their flights. Just a terrible operation.

I asked the on duty 3-stripper if booties were available. The answer was a flat no!

Comment cards not present either.

A total of 6 chairs for people to re-shoe after screening.

The airport does supply zip-lock baggies if needed.

The only good thing about the process was just one screener was calling out instructions to the mass of people waiting in line, so the noise level was reasonable.

My suggestion to TSA, if the person on the ID photo matches the face in front of your screener then get over the occassional expired date.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I can't see how anyone would complain about TSA and airport security. We should praise TSA for the wonderful work they do every day to keep us safe after that terrible attack on the United States.

We learned then that freedom and privacy are concepts that we have outgrown. This is the 21st century and terror attacks can happen anywhere at any time. We can never go back to the USA of the last century. I gladly give up my freedom and privacy to know that I'll be alive tomorrow.

That TSA is looking to speed up the security process without diluting it is a feather in their cap.

Submitted by Nate on

To the person who complained about the lack of booties, like Zip Lock bags, the Airport needs to provide those.

On the first amendment issue, Since the sidewalk in front of your home is public domain can I put up signs that you disagree with because its my right? Or should I use tact in dealing with you.

And lastly, true alot of people don't know the rules, and sometimes, don't care to know the rules, and they will be screened and get their stuff confiscated, however for people who take the time to know the rules, and know what to do, why shouldn't a line be made available to get those who cooperate through alot quicker, while someone is arguing the difference between what is and what is not a liquid.

Submitted by Anonymous on

re: "To the person who complained about the lack of booties, like Zip Lock bags, the Airport needs to provide those."

The airport does not require me to remove my shoes and walk on a dirty floor. TSA does!

The airport does not require me to place anything in a plactic bag. TSA does!

TSA should provide the items it deems required to pass the checkpoint.

Submitted by Nate on

TSA doesn't pack your bags and get your stopped.

TSA doesn't make you leave your socks at home.

These are things you KNOW you need, so why should TSA or even the airport be REQUIRED to supply something you are already aware of.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Is this a joke? Is the TSA agent who checks boarding passes and ID going to have a seating chart for each and every plane in each and every airline fleet, so that they know'll who has a bulkhead seat, where there's no such thing as "under the seat in front of you", they'll be able to distinguish the amount of space availabe under the seats in First Class and Business Class that are not bulkheads, and and they'll know the size of the window seats in Coach if they're not the same size as the aisle seats?

If we're going to discuss experiments for speeding up processing for some people, how about some common sense for the processes that are already in place? On Sunday, I left the Orlando International Airport about noon. When I was screened, I approached two metals tables arranged lengthwise in front of the xray machine for taking off shoes, jackets, etc. The gray bins to place them in were BETWEEN the two tables. When I asked the woman by the x-ray machine, if the bins could be placed at the beginning of the tables, she said it was a good idea. But when she asked another guard about moving the bins, the response was "we were told not to move anything".

When I walked through the metal detector, there were two xray lines with conveyors, but one metal detector between them for the people. My carry ons were twenty feet down a conveyor belt before I was given the signal to cross. That was a truly scary feeling, since I was afraid that if anyone tried to take my purse or laptop, I'd have a choice between losing it or being detained for raising a ruckus.

Granted, I was already feeling disoriented since there was no signage for where the security lines were, and no signage (and no one who looked like an employee to ask) for how to get to my gate after screening. But please, I packed my liquids in the right size containers in a one quart plastic bag. I took off my shoes and jacket, and put them with my purse and papers in bins on conveyors. When I've flown out of other airports, I've been able to meet my carry ons outside the x-ray machines, without wondering if someone else might have time to pick them up. In all honesty, I was baffled as to why the airport most likely to serve Disney World couldn't take a lesson from them in crowd processing.

Bottom line, -- is it too much to ask TSA to put bins where they're easy to reach in front of the x-ray machine, and send me through the metal detector so I can wait for my valuables after they're x-rayed, and not vice versa--AT EVERY SCREENING AT EVERY AIRPORT? Thank you.

Submitted by Anonymous on

@Anonymous "I gladly give up my freedom and privacy to know that I'll be alive tomorrow." -- March 3, 2008 11:01 AM

The TSA isn't making any guarantees about whether or not you will be alive tomorrow, they are just selling you the sizzle of security theater while turning your freedom and privacy into $$$.

I'm sure that if anything happens to you they'll say they feel really sad before they expand and take more freedoms.

Submitted by Anonymous on

@ Anonymous.
Amen. No one seems to want to admit that air travel, even today given the "ever-present threat of terrorism" is one of the safer things an American does. The salacious news media and power-hungry government like to stoke the fears of the public, who are inept at calculating and comparing risk.

To those who are so afraid, and want more invasive, worse security theatre to make them feel better, try this: quit smoking, stop driving, and give up red meat. That'll make REAL impact on your safety.

A commenter a couple of articles ago suggested starting a security-free airline for those of us who are so "care free," and "god help us" for whatever happens up there.

That's not too far off of a good idea. I'd probably keep flying that airline until it was more dangeous than my daily commute to work.

Submitted by Randy on

Were you the screener who made my wife throw away her OR booties after she walked through the metal detector because they had not been xrayed?

Submitted by Nate on

I bet you couldn't even name where I worked, let alone who made your wife take off her booties.

I haven't seen a passenger come through with booties in ages, so you didn't come through my airport when I was there.

If that happens, request a supervisor, wearing booties, in my opinion, is like wearing socks, it'd be easy to see if there was something in them. So my recommendation would be two fold, number one don't make assumptions about TSA people you deal with, and two, request a supervisor

Submitted by Anonymous on

>>A total of 6 chairs for people to re-shoe after screening.
Chairs to use while putting your shoes back on? Can't you just do it hopping on one foot, like the I've had to do at every airport I've passed through.

Frankly, I've long noticed that the checkpoints are not set up to make it easy for a person to put themselves back together (shoes on, belt threaded up and buckled, wallet back and car keys back in pocket, cell phone on belt, notebook PC back in carry on, etc.)

Checkpoints need to be equipped with counters or tables so people have someplace to work, and some chairs or stools to sit on while putting their shoes on.

If the TSA thinks this isn't necessary, please at least consider the elderly and the infirm, and what's it's like for them to put their shoes on with no place to sit.

Submitted by Ephena on

"Can't you just do it hopping on one foot" I would be laughing except that it's true. Still, I know the shoe thing started way after the airports were designed.

Submitted by Tuyen Pham on

My wife and kid flew on a Delta Airline from Seattle to LA last December for a quick visit to family members in Irvine before joining me in Colorado for our ski vacation. Their brand new ski bag was lost for 10 days. Not until the last day of our ski vacation, and after we spent almost a thousand dollars replacing the lost equipment, someone at some small airport in Colorado called us about the bag because they found my business card on the bag. They informed me that the bag did not have any destination tag save the business card I inserted into the tag pocket on the bag. They finally sent the ski bag all cut and chewed up to our home in the Seattle area. We thought this was all Delta Airline fault. Then we found the TSA flyer inside our bag informing us that the bag has been opened by TSA officials. Then it dawned on us that maybe Delta airline had no hand in this debacle. Eventhough our ski bag was not locked, or tied up in anyway. To open it, someone just had to unzip the bag. We found that the bag was cut up along the zipper. We wonder why? Did a TSA agent not even bother to look for the zipper's end to unzip it? Why was it cut? But more than that was it because they tried to cut open the ski bag, did they also cut away the destination tag which cause our ski bag to get lost for 10 days? Then again, if there is no destination tag, I wonder why someone did not look for by business card clearly on the tag window on the ski bag???? As the result of this, we lost money replacing the missing ski equipment, frustration calling Delta airline trying to find the bag. We made verbal, written complaints to Delta Airline. They promised to send us the $250.00 ($25.00 for each passenger effected for 5 days) inconvenient payment. But we never received it. But after we foudn the TSA tag, and suspect that because TSA cut up our ski bag that has more to do with our losing the ski bag, I lost my appetite to make more complaint to Delta airline just to get promises without any result. As for TSA? Who do we complaint? Would it make any difference? How can a faceless TSA agent out of sight somewhere in the airport instead of finding the zipper's end, decided to cut up our luggage without informed us so that we can have any recourse?

Submitted by Bruin Dave on

I have two questions that I have not seen answered on this blog.

I am a frequent business traveller and I paid for membership in Fly Clear. I have been very pleased with the reduced security wait, but originally the concept was that those who had purchased the Fly Clear membership (and thus have undergone a TSA background check) would be allowed to keep their shoes on through security. Why hasn't TSA followed through with allowing Fly Clear to provide this service?

Also, I work for a government contractor and my work requires me to have a DoD security clearance. As mentioned several times in this blog, typically related to a suggestion that uniformed military personnel should implicitly be given a break in the security line, the investigations required for such clearances are not trivial.

Why hasn't the TSA adopted a program in which those with clearances may apply for a special ID that allows us to bypass the security line or have an abbreviated screening?

Submitted by Jane on

Good post. Nice detaled explanation. Zip lanes will save time.

Submitted by Boy Dog Names on

Certainly looks good. I should be flying into Burbank in the coming months so I’ll keep an eye out for it. Thanks for the read

Submitted by Vind on

"Why hasn't the TSA adopted a program in which those with clearances may apply for a special ID that allows us to bypass the security line or have an abbreviated screening?"
The exceptions made worst things possible. Better NO EXCEPTIONS.

Submitted by Dinah The Resta... on

Good points @kathy regarding passing security checks and future intent.

No system is perfect, but by having people pass through a stringent security process we can be reasonably confident that they are not dangerous.

Then by not sending them through an elaborate screening process, agents can focus on other people who are far more likely to be dangerous.

Submitted by Ahmed Wwet on

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