Spokane International Airport deploys passenger assistants to help travelers get through screening
Next time you’re at the Spokane International Airport, you might see people in lilac suit coats helping direct passengers through security.
The “passenger assistants” are the brainchild of Larry Krauter, the airport’s chief executive officer. With the strong growth in passenger travel at the airport, Krauter noticed an increasing number of inexperienced travelers during his daily rounds who weren’t familiar with basic TSA security regulations.
The most extreme case was a man with a cartload of luggage in the security line. Krauter alerted the man that it wasn’t possible to take a cart through TSA screening.
Krauter then asked the man if all the bags were carry-ons. “No,” the man replied.
“I asked him if he had been to the ticket counter, and he said ‘no,’ ” Krauter said in an email. “I asked him if he had a boarding pass and he was not sure.”
Fortunately, the man was traveling during off-peak hours and Krauter was able to redirect him. But if the man had been in the security line at 5 a.m., “the poor guy would have likely missed his flight,” he said.
The airport has a one-year, $266,500 contract with Kodiak Security Services Inc. of Spokane to provide the passenger assistance, which started Nov. 5. Airport officials will evaluate the service after the holidays. Krauter said the airport has the flexibility to adjust as needed or even cancel the service with a 30-day notice.
Currently, the service starts at 3:30 a.m. and runs through 1:30 p.m. daily to cover peak morning and afternoon travel times. Senior airport managers, including Krauter, will take turns working as assistants to get a first-hand feeling for passengers’ needs.
Some common issues that arise include travelers getting into the PreCheck screening line versus regular screening; travelers being in the wrong terminal building; or travelers having liquids in excess of TSA limits in their carry-ons.
The assistants wear dark lilac suit coats in a nod to Spokane’s reputation as the Lilac City. The jackets come from the same vendor used by the Lilac Festival Association.
Krauter said the program’s overarching goal is to improve passengers’ experience at the airport. Even the travelers who don’t need help getting through screening will get a friendly greeting and a smile, he said.
“It’s all about first and last impressions,” Krauter said.