Published on Aspen Daily News Online (http://www.aspendailynews.com)
Sardy Field, TSA staffers to address long lines at the airport
Officials at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport will be working with the Transportation Safety Administration as well as local air service providers to mitigate long lines this winter at the terminal, according to a statement released Monday.
“It’s an ongoing problem,” said Pat Bingham, county community relations specialist. “It gets very busy during the Christmas rush, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday weekend, President’s Day, New Year’s Eve, spring break and pretty much the entire month of March.
“This will be the first time the county has engaged in a proactive role to address the problem,” she continued.
Those who opt-in on PitkinAlert will receive a notice if the airport is very busy, but flight times will not be available. The alerts will be available shortly before Christmas.
“It’s designed to give people a head’s up if the airport is really busy,” said Bingham.
Airport staff hopes the alerts allow them to better manage the number of travelers waiting in the small, secure boarding area, which is bound to a capacity of little more than 300 by the county’s fire code.
Brian Grefe, assistant airport director, noted in the statement that if capacity is met, airport staff must decide which travelers have precedent over others who may have longer until their flights. That will dictate how passengers are moved through the security line.
“We are getting more creative with how we encourage travelers to arrive at the airport early so they don’t miss their flights standing in long security lines,” Grefe’s statement read. “We also have to work magic on the days when too many people wind up in our undersized secure-boarding area. Fire code prohibits more than 316 people at a time in that room.”
According to Bingham, the TSA, airlines and airport officials were meeting during the fall to figure out the best methods to keep the flow of travelers moving through security and onto their flights, especially those who show up just before their boarding times.
“Because we’re a small, quaint airport, travelers get lulled into thinking they don’t need to arrive two hours before their flights,” Grefe said. “They often don’t need to arrive that early during the off-season and slower times, but during the holidays it’s not that unusual for people to miss their flights by not arriving in time.”
A public outreach effort also is planned to cover the busiest winter days, reminding travelers to arrive at least two hours early. The campaign will employ “real-time reminders” rather than a blanket, winter-long advisory, according to the statement. Once at the airport, travelers may be ushered through the long lines depending on the urgency of their departures.
“Many people who don’t fly during the busy time of the year don’t see [how busy it can get],” said Bingham. “It only takes one thing, like a flight cancellation … if one domino falls it can be insanity in there.”
“This is going to be an all-out effort by all of us, the airport, airlines and TSA, to improve the traveling experience the best we can,” Grefe added in the statement.
Photo Credit with Byline:
Airport officials plan to work with the TSA and local airlines to manage long lines during the busiest times this winter at Sardy Field.