90% clear airport security in 10 minutes
By Laura Stace
Miami International Airport's security team has trimmed wait time for passengers at check points this year while on-time departure rates have fluctuated, officials and industry reports said.
Ninety percent of passengers are making it through security in ten minutes or less, said Mark Hatfield, federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration in Miami.
This, he said, is up from 80% earlier in the year.
The North Terminal saw an uptick in wait times earlier in the year because of "significant growth in American Airlines' passenger levels that stretched the limits of our screening capacity," he said.
During the first two months of the terminal's new in-line baggage system start up, his agency kept the old, outmoded system running too as an "insurance policy," Mr. Hatfield said.
The in-line baggage handling system, which screens baggage for explosives, eliminates the need for passengers to deliver checked baggage to a screening location.
"This created a staffing strain, especially when coupled with transfers, promotions and attrition," Mr. Hatfield said.
Once the in-line system was running successfully, he said, the old system was shut down.
"We rebalanced staffing levels between South and North Terminals by consolidating three South checkpoints into two," Mr. Hatfield said. "We also reduced overnight staffing levels, and these two moves freed up enough personnel for us to open a new North checkpoint at D4."
This, he said, provided wait-time relief almost immediately.
"This month we began a new hire program to backfill vacancies and to add enough staff to operate the new screening lanes that will ready in 2013," he said.
Also, moving forward, Mr. Hatfield said, the agency will be looking at other ways to grow the membership of its TSA PreCheck program.
Members of this program are US citizens who are included by invitation only. If a passenger is eligible for expedited screening, information is embedded in the passenger's boarding pass. The information is read by scanner by security staff at checkpoints, and eligible passengers are directed to the TSA PreCheck lane.
Once passengers are identified as qualifying to use the PreCheck lane at security, he said, they have virtually no wait time.
From January to July this year, the Air Travel Consumer Report indicates on-time departure percentages at Miami International Airport ranged from a high of 86.4% in February to a low of 74.7% in July.
On-time arrivals during the period hit a high of 88.1% in February and a low of 78.4% in July.
Miami-Dade Aviation Department communications director Greg Chin cited two airport contributors to on-time departure rates.
These, he said, are having four long runways that provide virtually no delays as far as airport congestion, and the 128 aircraft gates that handle more than 700 daily flights.
Factors in on-time rates at Miami International over which the airport has no control, Mr. Chin said, include:
•Aircraft mechanical issues departing Miami.
•Aircraft mechanical issues departing the originating city.
•Weather and lightning here.
•Weather at the originating airport.
•Weather en route here.
•Originating airport air traffic control and ground traffic issues.
•En route mandatory separation of planes in the air.
•Crew scheduling and crew time legality problems departing Miami.
•Crew scheduling and crew time legality problems departing the originating city.
March was the airport's busiest month, with 7,036 arriving flights and 7,035 departing.
In July — the last recorded month thus far this year by the Air Travel Consumer Report — the airport had 6,466 flights departing and 6,465 arriving. Of these, 74.7% departed on time while 78.4% arrived on time.
Mr. Chin said American Airlines handles about 70% of the airport's flights.
Air Travel Consumer Report said 3,950 American Airlines flights arrived in Miami throughout July and, of these, 80.3% were on time.
A spokesperson for American said this year the airline launched or will launch five new services linking to new destinations from Miami.
These included Miami-Barcelona (April), Miami-Seattle (June), Miami-Manaus, Brazil (June), Miami-Asuncion, Paraguay (November) and Miami-Roatan, Honduras (November).
"We have seen continuous growth at the Miami hub, with departures up 60% from 2002 to 2012," the spokesperson said.
"In 2012 we have seen an increase of 6.1% in passengers and 4.1% in available seat miles" through August.
Effective in November, the spokesperson said, American and regional partner American Eagle will operate 328 daily flights to 114 destinations from the Miami hub.
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