Officials Hope Expanded Juneau Baggage Screening System Reduces Airline Delays

TSA and Juneau airport officials hope the recently expanded baggage screening system will reduce airline departure delays.

After numerous requests, federal funding was finally realized for the second machine at the Juneau International Airport, just in time for the arrival of Delta Airlines.

Delta’s daily summer flight between Juneau and Seattle adds another aircraft at the busiest time of the day.

“There’s four aircraft in the morning from 6 o’clock to about 8 o’clock. That’s a two-hour window for four aircraft,” Marc Cheatham, the deputy manager at the airport, said. “And adding on Delta’s aircraft, that’s five aircraft now. That’s a lot of bags to be going through one machine.”

TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers says the machine cost about $330,000. Both screeners use CT-Scan technology to detect explosives and produce a 3D image.

“We know not only today, but for several years, that explosives remain the number one threat against aviation security,” Dankers said. “So all checked baggage must be screened.”

If a piece of luggage sends off an alarm, a TSA officer, like Noah Teshner, pulls it aside for additional screening.

“When the bag alarms, we’re going to take the bag to a search table and at that search table we’re going to open the bag . We’re going to go inside the bag and look specifically for an item that alarmed the machine,” Teshner said. “Once we’ve located that item, we’re going to run a test on it and ensure the item is permitted to go. And then we’re going to repack the back and send it on its way.”

Teshner says TSA does not open luggage unless the alarm has gone off.

Before the new screening machine was added, bags bound for Alaska Airlines were getting jugged up on busy days, Cheatham says.

At least Alaska Airlines has a conveyor belt from check-in desks. Delta does not.

“Delta employees actually cart them in and put them up the rail and into the new CT. and then Alaska airlines can also utilize the second machine,” Cheatham said. “They can use the bag belt system, especially in the morning; they have four aircraft in the morning.  They can have an employee here that sends it from the bag belt system to the new CT 80 and through that so they can do a lot more bags much faster.”

Delta’s seasonal service ends in September. Cheatham says Delta will likely not get its own conveyor belt system until the carrier comes back to Juneau next summer.

Even without it, he says, the new baggage screening equipment is expected to end the morning bottleneck and hopefully, “the delays for the aircrafts will be limited, hopefully.”

Rosemarie Alexander is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

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