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Delta COO: How we can speed up airport security lines

Michelle Fox
Delta COO: How we can speed up airport security lines

With the furor over long airport security lines growing, Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) debuted a new system Wednesday it hopes will help solve the problem.

The long waits at security checkpoints across the nation have frustrated travelers this spring, with airlines warning passengers to arrive at least two hours early. The situation is only expected to get worse this summer.

About 231 million passengers will fly on U.S. airlines from June through August, up 4 percent from the same period last year, according to the trade group Airlines for America.

"The biggest constraint of the system is the X-ray screening of the bags," Delta Air Lines Chief Operating Officer Gil West said on CNBC's " Power Lunch " on Wednesday.

In an effort to speed up the lines, Delta is doing a three-week test run at Atlanta's airport that changes the way passengers move through security.

"It's the first of its kind in the U.S., and day one it increased productivity 30 percent," West said. He's expecting productivity to double before the test run ends.

Essentially, in the current system one slow traveler can back up the line because everything happens in series, and in Delta's innovation, everything happens in parallel, he explained. In other words, instead of travelers putting their things on the conveyer belt one at a time, there are five stations, so there are five different people going through their pockets and getting their bags X-rayed.

"If a bag does alarm, the whole system continues to flow so nothing shuts the system down," West explained.

While bag screening is the biggest hold-up, baggage fees are not the reason behind the recent delays, he said.

"The industry has had bag fees for almost a decade and nothing has changed in that regard," said West.

"The lines that we are experiencing this year are not driven by increases in bag fees."

Earlier this month, Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey and Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal asked executives at 12 airlines to drop checked-bag fees this summer to help reduce the wait.

— CNBC's Phil LeBeau, AP and Reuters contributed to this report.

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