With the prospect of a new, improved airport terminal several years away the TSA, airlines and Aspen/Pitkin County Airport have teamed up to improve the behind-the-scenes baggage screening system. The project gets underway this week and will involve replacing and enlarging the TSA baggage conveyor belt used to screen bags after they’re checked in.
“The TSA’s current screening machines and conveyor belts at our airport are already antiquated and overwhelmed,” said Airport Director, John Kinney. This upgrade will significantly reduce the possibility of several hundred bags not making it onto a flight during peak season because of screening delays.”
Beginning this Thanksgiving travelers at the airlines check-in counters will be asked to tote their checked baggage to a “Drop and Go” site near, but not behind, the ticketing kiosks. During the holiday travel seasons this winter this extra step for travelers could add time to the check-in process and travelers will be encouraged to allow a few minutes of additional time to manage their baggage and to move through the TSA passenger screening process.
“We know that the beginning of our busy winter season is not the optimum time for this construction project,” Kinney said. “Unfortunately the TSA equipment needed for this project was not available during the off-season. We are grateful that the TSA understood how critical our need is and that they pushed our project ahead of other airports with similar issues,” Kinney said.
Construction will occur in three phases to minimize impact. The first phase will occur through the end of November and involve moving interior walls and re-configuring power supplies to accommodate the new conveyor belt. Most construction will occur behind-the-scenes from the customer check-in areas. The second and third phases of the project will begin in mid-December and see the installation of a new automated conveyor belt from curbside to the airport ramp.
“While improved traveler experience and no bag left behind is a top priority of this project, automating TSA baggage screening is also expected to reduce the number of injuries airlines and TSA workers suffer every year when they manually move bags from one location to another. Our airport is among the last in the country to automate this process,” Kinney said.
The $1.9 million cost of the project will be shared by TSA and the airlines.