The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are the busiest travel times at the Des Moines International Airport. Officials expect more than 147,000 travelers will pass through the airport in November, continuing the trend they’ve seen of a 3.5 percent increase in boardings each month over last year. Airport officials advise passengers to plan on arriving at the airport at least two hours prior to their scheduled departure time, and to be at their gate at least 30 minutes ahead of time. The Business Record recently spoke with Tim McDonald, federal security director with the Transportation Security Administration, about security improvements at the airport and tips for getting to your gate in the least amount of time.
Q: What changes have been made at the airport’s security checkpoint, and how will this affect travelers?
A: We have redesigned the security checkpoint so that the queue lanes are wider. The wanding area that’s behind the screening area has been widened as well to make us more efficient. We have upgraded our baggage X-ray machines. Above the screening area, we have added two plasma screen message boards that will display tips for getting through the screening process more quickly. Most importantly, the egress area (for arriving passengers) has been narrowed and alarmed, which allows three more checkpoint personnel to be used for screening rather than monitoring that area.
Q: How many TSA employees are assigned to the airport? Have more been added for the holidays?
A: The Des Moines International Airport is authorized to employ 100 screeners. We will begin hiring for 30 additional part-time screeners in Des Moines that will begin working in March 2004. We’ll be able to plug them in at the peak times. The number of full-time-equivalent screeners will equal 100 when we finish the hiring process.
Q: What tips do you have for travelers to get through security smoothly?
A: We have three tips we call “Three for Three” that can drastically reduce the chance of setting off alarms that can lead to a secondary screening, which, on average, can mean an additional three minutes to get through security. When approaching the checkpoint: Place all metal items in a carry-on bag; take your laptop computer out of its case to be screened; and take your coat off and put it in one of the bins. Also, one of the traveling tips we give especially during the holidays is to wait to wrap gifts at your destination, because if one sets off an alarm, the screeners may have to unwrap it. (For more travel tips and a complete list of items prohibited from carry-on or checked baggage, visit www.TSATravelTips.us or call TSA’s Contact Center toll-free at (866) 289-9673.