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The TSA is changing airport security lanes

By Amy Chen
updated February 21, 2017

Today, the TSA is set to expand its Black Diamond security checkpoint program to Milwaukee, making it the 13th airport so far to offer self-select lanes based on ski icons (green for beginners, blue for intermediate, and black for expert).

After debuting in Salt Lake City in mid-February, the program has rolled out—in order of appearance—to Denver, Spokane, Boston, Orlando, Cincinnati, Raleigh-Durham, Portland, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Houston-Hobby, and Oakland airports, according to a TSA spokesperson.

Here's how editor Erik Torkells recently described it:

When you reach the security checkpoint, you can choose which line to enter--expert (travel frequently, know the rules), intermediate (not quite an expert, but it's not your first time at the rodeo), and beginner/people who need more time (families, special needs). In a cute touch, they're using traditional ski iconography—black diamond for expert, blue square for intermediate, green circle for beginner.

In case you haven't passed through these lines yet, here's a one-minute video explaining the system:

While flying from Oakland last week, I used the system, which launched at that airport on April 18.

By picking the near-empty "expert traveler" lane, I was able to skip 10 people in the blue "casual traveler" line. However, my gloating was short-lived since I ended up standing behind a member of the National Guard, who had unlaced his boots but neglected to take them off. After beeping the second time, he had to go back to remove his wallet and belt.

At this point, the TSA had opened another checkpoint, and I sadly watched the "casual travelers" bypass me.

When we blogged about this service before, readers generally gave favorable comments about the idea.

What do you think of the program? Was I just unlucky, or are slow lines common even in "expert" lanes?

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