HOUSTON—Watch the crowds lining up at Houston’s airports during this busiest travel period of the year and you’re bound to see someone like the Dosch family.
Tim and Kristen Dosch looked happy as any young couple could as they pushed a stroller through Hobby Airport, taking their 18-month-old son Lee to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving.
“I’m the oldest of seven kids,” said Tim Dosch. “And so we’re all going to my parent’s house in Tulsa. Whole family.”
So they can be sure that Lee’s grandmother will have turkey dinner waiting on Thanksgiving Day. But there’s one element of uncertainty they – and all of us – face when we fly during this holiday week.
How long are the lines?
An estimated 1.5-million people will fly through Houston’s airports during the 13-day period surrounding Thanksgiving, by far the busiest travel season of the year, say city officials. And it seems there’s no telling in advance how long passengers will have to wait as they flow through the rope lines leading to security checkpoints.
“At Hobby they’re always pretty short for me,” Tim Dosch said. “But at IAH they can be a little longer.”
Now, for the first time, passengers in Houston can tap into real-time information about the length of TSA security lines. Antennae positioned around Bush Intercontinental and Hobby airports are using Bluetooth technology to basically ping passenger’s cell phones, time-stamping them at the beginning and end of security lines
That information is posted on the Houston Airport System’s website, flytohouston.com, giving passengers a better idea how long they’ll have to wait before clearing security.
“Somebody like me, for instance,” said Jeff Bream, assistant director for technology with the Houston Airport System. “With me and my kids, I want to know: How much time do I need to get to the airport, to get through TSA? So with this information, you check out historical data or whatever and you can see how long it’s taking TSA to get people across that bridge.”
Aviation officials say the data they gather doesn’t connect individuals with the signals they receive.
“It’s totally anonymous to us,” Bream said. “We don’t know their phone numbers, we don’t know their names, it’s just a number out there. And we associate that number with a time stamp as they go through.”
Nonetheless, no matter how long or short the lines look, airport officials urge passengers to show up hours before their scheduled flights.
‘It gets pretty crazy,” said Terry Miller, Hobby Airport’s general manager. “This is the busiest time of year. For that reason, we recommend people get here at least two hours in advance.”