Prohibiting Express Elite Security Lines at Airports: Is That Fair?

Ben Nelson, United States Senator representing Nebraska. Photograph courtesy of Flickr and © Ben Nelson.

Ben Nelson, a United States Senator representing the state of Nebraska, recently introduced the Air Passenger Fairness Act of 2012 “to promote fairness for all air travel passengers by barring airlines and airport operators from using express security lines that allow for certain groups of air passengers to cut to the front of the” line of security checkpoints at airports in the United States.

His argument is that “this bill is about fairness. Regardless of whether you have a first-class ticket or have reached a certain frequent flier status, the purpose of the airport security screening line is to ensure traveler safety. Allowing a select few to cut in front of those who are waiting patiently, just in order to provide a perk, has nothing to do with safety.”

Huh?!?

Perhaps the Senator representing Nebraska does not travel often, but the supposed purpose of express elite security lines at airports is to allow those who travel frequently to save time. It is a perk of being an elite member of a frequent flier loyalty program designed to ease one aspect of the trials and tribulations associated with travel — and it is a perk that is certainly earned, as one is usually required to travel a minimum of 25,000 miles within a year waiting in airport security checkpoint lines just like everyone else in order to become eligible for that perk. Imagine how much time a person who travels 100,000 miles per year must waste waiting in line if there were no express elite lines at airport security checkpoints. What a deterrent that would be regarding frequent travel — at least for me — if express elite security checkpoint lines at airports were prohibited.

By the way, there have been plenty of times where I experienced longer waits in those special express elite lines than in the queues in the regular security checkpoint lines at airports.

The Air Passenger Fairness Act of 2012 would not affect PreCheck, the current program administered by the Transportation Security Administration which airline passengers can use to apply for pre-screening clearance that may expedite their security screenings at designated locations in select airports. It also would not prohibit an airline or airport operator from setting up express lines for disabled passengers.

In other words, you either have to be legally disabled or pay for the privilege of expedited screening at airport security checkpoints if this bill becomes law.

I have a better idea: why not alleviate the wait times for all passengers if there is such a concern about fairness? For example, instead of having Transportation Security Administration agents performing random security checks at airport gates, which many FlyerTalk members — including myself — believe perform no useful purpose or function whatsoever, how about having them operate those security checkpoint lanes that are usually closed, especially when the lines are long?

Airport security checkpoints are similar to the teller counters at banks and the checkout lanes at supermarkets: they build a lot of stations but seem to never use all of them at once — even when there are long lines of people waiting to be served and anxious to move on. It seems wasteful to build all of those stations if they are not going to be used to alleviate long lines. Why do they do that?!?

There are a plethora of aspects to the airport security checkpoint experience that require a far greater priority than “fairness” for people waiting in line, in my opinion. I hope that Nelson will realize that and use his time more efficiently for more important and pressing matters which currently impact upon his constituents.

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Comments (Showing 7 of 7)

  • KyRoamer at 2:35pm April 07, 2012

    Maybe his constituents don’t fly often. He likely gets an escort to the front of the line.

    Whatever it takes to get a vote. Don’t let common sense interfere.

  • trvlr64 at 7:25pm April 07, 2012

    Typical senator taking on a NON ISSUE just to give himself a “pat on the back”. Hey BEN there are real issues facing this country. Maybe you should spearhead a few of those.

    Oh wait!?!? You’re a do nothing senator from a state that most people don’t even care 1 iota about.

  • starflyer at 6:00pm April 10, 2012

    Sure hope the senator is fair enough to support publishing of min, max, and avg security wait times on a 15 minute basis across all US airports and terminals. Bring some visibility to the public about how well or poor TSA is performing with the security fees that every passenger pays.

    I think he would soon find that people are far more concerned with TSA providing adequate service levels rather than the fairness of express security lines.

  • Canarsie at 1:39pm April 11, 2012

    If he truly wants fairness, I am certain that he will have no problem sharing his health benefits and other perks with me and you — right?!?

  • bkcarolina at 8:23am April 18, 2012

    Hmmm…maybe the people in Nebraska care 1 iota about Nebraska, ya think? It’s always fun when a buncha entitled people want to demand their priveleges that for the most part their companies have paid for them to acquire, because, after all, some of us is more equal than others, ain’t we?

  • IEFBR14 at 5:37pm April 18, 2012

    I think Nelson’s complaint is that the queues are labelled fairly. Instead of Super-express, Express, Regular, fairness dictates transparent queue names: “DONE THIS 100+ times”,
    “I think I got it”, and “I have no clue what’s coming up”. And to be fair, have many of the last category.

    What’s really, really not fair, is how those that know what’s going on are subject to delays by those that don’t.

    Version 2 of the law will address preferential boarding privileges. The law will require
    that the gate be bum-rushed in unison by elites and neophytes alike.

    Version 3 will address the unfairness of row numbers. Passengers with higher row numbers have to walk farther than those with lower numbers. That’s not fair. The law will require that row numbers repeat. Inasmuch as there’s no REAL solution to this problem, requiring row numbers to restart after the number TEN will at least FEEL fairer.

    Version 4 will require seat map pictures for those that never learned the alphabet and don’t know the difference between seat A B C D E F. (This is like the McDonald’s menu board: Menu available in Braille. Picture menu available. If you are blind, how will you read that to know? If you don’t know how to read, how do you know the existence of the picture menu).

    It’s not fair that society is subjected to these distorted, unreasonable, crazy attempts to “be fair”.

    Life isn’t fair. Deal with it. (And not be writing worthless legislation).

  • Arnold Fishman at 8:12am April 22, 2012

    Fairness doctrine is a leftist word to eliminate competition and level the playing field. Its all about socialism and equality. In other words, sorry Senator Nelson you are doing what communists do around the world.

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