Shorter wait times for security screening? RDU adds more lanes in main terminal

The security checkpoint at RDU’s main terminal, the funnel through which every departing passenger must pass, has gotten a little bigger.

Two lanes have been added to the security checkpoint in Terminal 2, bringing the total to 12. Raleigh-Durham International Airport officials say the two new lanes will help keep up with the growing number of passengers flying from RDU and reduce the likelihood of long waits to get through.

The Transportation Security Administration screened about 7.2 million passengers at RDU in the last year, or about 19,800 a day on average, according to agency spokeswoman Sari Koshetz. The record for a single day was 26,500 on May 13, the Monday after Mother’s Day and university graduation weekend in the Triangle, which surpassed the previous record of 25,327 on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Koshetz said.

Most of those passengers depart through Terminal 2, where 10 of the 11 airlines at RDU now operate.

Passenger screenings increased 39 percent at RDU from 2014 to last year, said Michael Landguth, the airport’s president and CEO. The busiest times are in the morning, when the checkpoint lines often spill out into the ticketing area haphazardly, making travelers worry about whether they’ll get through in time to catch their flights.

Landguth said RDU will install movable stanchions to define the lines and staff to direct passengers and answer questions. But he says the additional screening lanes should help reduce the need to manage lines that snake outside the checkpoint area.

“We’re hoping that a lot of that will go away,” Landguth said.

As it is, about 95 percent of RDU passengers wait no more than 30 minutes to get through the checkpoints, Koshetz said, and 84 percent wait less than 15 minutes.

Landguth emphasized the need to arrive at the airport two hours before a flight. Not only is there the security checkpoint to get through, parking can be tight and airlines begin to board flights well in advance of their scheduled departure time.

Long-term plan

Contractors have been working on the new security lanes behind the north wall of the checkpoint area since late fall. Part of the space had been occupied by a drug store that closed last year in anticipation of the expansion.

The space for the new lanes was built into Terminal 2 when it opened in 2008, but remained closed off until it was needed.

“This was all part of the long-term plan,” Landguth said.

RDU plans to expand or add a second security checkpoint to Terminal 1 when four dormant gates there are reopened next spring. Three airlines — Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit — will move their operations to Terminal 1, joining Southwest Airlines, when the gates open.

Landguth says there’s more unused space behind the wall in Terminal 2 for future expansion of the security checkpoint there when it’s needed.

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.