Automated Security Lines Help Security Move More Quickly

Automated security lines have been rolling out at airports across the country for a couple of years, but I finally had the opportunity to experience them myself last month. My thoughts, in short: YES. The system feels a little different but it definitely makes security lines move faster. And anything that gets me to spend less time in security lines and more time actually getting stuff done (while hopefully enjoying a glass of wine) gets my vote.

Many aspects of airport security are still the same: the initial line, the items you have to remove from your suitcase, TSA Pre-check, the scanning machines. What has changed is the system for the bins and conveyor belt.

Instead of everyone waiting in line to unload their laptops, liquids bags, etc, there are numbered stations, or “divestment points”. After showing your boarding pass and ID to the TSA agent, you don’t wait behind whoever is in front of you until they’re done pulling every last penny out of their pocket. You just go to the next available spot. There might be someone directing you to a spot, but if not don’t be afraid to go to what looks like the front of the line. It may feel like you’re cutting, but I promise–this is the way the system is designed to work.

You are required to put everything in bins, including your suitcase, jacket, and shoes (this the case for Pre-check as well–suitcase and personal item both go into a bin). Once you put your bins on the conveyor belt you go through the scanner–again, you don’t have to wait for the person in front of you at the conveyor belt to finish. For example, if you’re in spot number three you don’t have to wait for the person in spot number two to finish. You simply get in line for the scanner. You’ll pick up your items on the other side like normal.

TSA has put together a little video about automated security lines, in case you need a visual:

It may feel a little awkward going through security like this the first couple of times, but once you’re used to it you’ll love it. No more waiting for that one person who is painstakingly removing every last tiny item from their bag! Or if you are the person needing extra time, no more feeling like you’re holding up hundreds of people! Everyone wins, seriously. They are currently in about a dozen airports, including DFW, MIA, ATL, LAX, and others. I’m hopeful this will continue to expand to additional airports around the country.

Readers, have you gone through the automated security lines? What are your thoughts?


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  1. Been through this system in ATL and MSP. In both airports it has not been a pleasant experience and not more efficient. Unless TSA adds a person to the crew playing traffic cop, four people end up fighting to get their trays on the conveyor. If you have more than one bin, you’re lucky if you get both of your bins out together at the other end. Not sure what for profit company sold this bill of goods, but it’s neither efficient or cheaper. I’ll take the regular line any day.

  2. I’ve used this system at LHR and I really like it. It’s faster, especially when no TSA Pre-Check is available.

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