Here’s hope for shorter security lines at MIA

Travelers accustomed to steaming in long lines at Miami International Airport while unoccupied security employees idle nearby at a scanning checkpoint that is inexplicably closed may finally get some relief from a new monitoring system designed to reduce wait times.

QueueAnalyzer, which manufacturer SITA calls “the intelligent queue management technology,” utilizes cameras, sensors and algorithms to assess how lines are or are not flowing. Passengers can view wait times before they go to the airport and when they arrive at the airport on a mobile app, website and terminal screen displays. Airport managers will have dashboards to view live video feeds of lines, gauge wait times and pinpoint bottlenecks.

But this “smart technology” will still depend on humans to make smart decisions about how to deploy manpower to the right locations and where and when to open more security lines.

The goal of the QueueAnalyzer system is to improve the typically miserable airport experience of travelers sick of being herded like cows and wasting time with little to do but chew their cuds while standing in serpentine lines before being inspected like pieces of meat. If only the system could be used during the tediously inefficient boarding process onto overbooked flights as well.

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Thousands of travelers pack Miami International Airport as they wait in line to leave Miami on Thursday, September 7, 2017.

C.M. GUERRERO. cmguerrero@elnuevoherald.com

Miami-Dade County approved a $2.92 million contract with SITA, which is based in Atlanta and Geneva, to install the video analytics system and digital cameras at 10 MIA checkpoints. It will aid Transportation Security Administration agents in anticipating and reacting to long lines with staffing adjustments.

“This enables rapid response to unexpected conditions, helping ensure the airport authorities and TSA can work together to minimize disruption,” said Matthys Serfontein, SITA vice president for airports. “It also provides predictions, which supports planning to avoid delays when possible.”

QueueAnalyzer, which also measures terminal foot traffic by tracking travelers’ cell phone signals, has been effective at Orlando International Airport, where 53 percent fewer passengers are spending more than 15 minutes in line, SITA data shows.

“Passengers want the right information at the right time,” SITA president Randy Pizzi said. “This is a great example of smart technology being used to deliver a better passenger experience.”

In its overhaul project, Phoenix Sky Harbor airport installed the system and was recently ranked the best airport in the U.S. by The Points Guy, which included a No. 4 rating in the Timeliness category (wait times in lines and flight delay and cancellation rates). MIA improved to No. 12 on the list of 30, but its Timeliness rating was not good at No. 23. New York’s John F. Kennedy airport ranked worst overall and worst in Timeliness and Accessibility. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International was low on the list at No. 26 overall and No. 26 in Timeliness.

Phoenix is adding another tech upgrade – a mobile app that checks for flight delays and alerts airport bar managers to stay open for late-night departures, according to the Wall Street Journal. It will address one of passengers’ chief concerns: Availability of pre-flight cocktails, presumably to blunt the stress of the air travel experience.