Paying to skip long security lines

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Most English airports allow passengers to cut ahead in the security line for a small fee. Yet most Americans don't know about this because they usually visit London by flying into Heathrow, one of England's only airports to not have adopted the fee.

Luton, outside of London, was the first airport to charge £3 ($5) to passengers who want to take a shortcut at airport security, bypassing long lines for a fast-track queue. Passengers can pay for Priority Lane access at an airport kiosk or at the airport's website.

Liverpool's John Lennon Airport charges £4 (about $6.50) at its kiosks. Bristol Airport charges £3.95 (or about $6.50).

Gatwick and Stansted don't offer fee-based fast-track security lanes. Gatwick claims that last year, it took on average just 1 minute 47 seconds to pass through security and over 97 percent of the time passengers got through in less than five minutes.

Small side note: I wish I could tell you what average wait times are at U.S. airports, but I can't. The TSA once had a Wait Time Calculator for terminals across the country, but that has been closed since 2009. When you go to a site like FlightStats and see "security wait times" you are looking at estimates that could have no bearing on reality.

A couple of weeks ago, we asked our readers if they would be willing to enroll in a Trusted Traveler program in exchange for getting through security faster. Results of our (admittedly unscientific) blog poll were mixed: Only 28 percent said yes, while others were unsure or skeptical.

We're wondering if U.S. airports should adopt fast-track security lanes for a fee. Right now, many major American airports provide fast-track service as a perk for first-class passengers. One the one hand, travelers already have to pay airport taxes and facility fees as part of their ticket and this may seem like double-charging. Plus, the system creates a perverse incentive for airports to actually slow down their existing security lines to encourage more people to pay for the shorter lines, which are profitable for the airport. On the other hand, avoiding getting delayed for a flight because of amateur travelers clogging up the metal detectors is something that some people would be eager to skip for a price. What do you think? Sound off in the comments below.

Please vote in our poll: How much would you be willing to pay, if anything, to skip the long lines at airport security?


Maybe if we could get through security faster, we'd travel more (24 comments)

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