By Steve Pike
Visitors and snowbirds coming through South Florida’s airports will see some changes from a year ago. The most notable is at Palm Beach International Airport, where the Transportation Security Administration in September began using five full-body scanners that can see through clothing.
The machines, which use Millimeter Wave Advanced Imaging Technology, caused a bit of an uproar when they were announced earlier this summer, because some passengers viewed the full-body scan as an invasion of privacy. The TSA, however, says it has implemented strict measures to protect passenger privacy, which is ensured through the anonymity of the image.
The image, according to the TSA, cannot be stored, transmitted or printed, and is deleted immediately once viewed. In addition, the technology has a privacy filter that blurs facial features.
“Would you rather be safe than sorry?’’ said Mark Goldblum, a part-time Lake Worth resident who also lives in Rye, N.Y. “I’ve been through it a couple of times and it’s no big deal.’’
Goldblum might be the exception on a couple of fronts. One is that he doesn’t object to the machine; and two, that he’s a repeat customer — not every passenger is being asked to go through the machine. That doesn’t mean, however, that anybody is exempt from
screening. Those passengers who don’t want to go through the full-body scan go
through a physical pat down.
Even before reaching the security areas, however, passengers at PBIA will see newly renovated stores, including the PGA Tour Shop, Starbucks and Worth Avenue Bookstore on the B Concourse. Later this fall, PBIA plans for a New York Times Bookstore on the B
Concourse as well as new a Starbucks on the C Concourse.
Gates at both PBIA and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport might get busier in the coming months in the wake of Southwest Airlines’ agreement to buy Air Tran Airways for $1.4 billion. It’s still early to predict the full impact, but the deal is expected to make the combined Southwest/ATA the largest carrier at FLL.
The deal, which is still a few months from being approved by regulators, also is expected to make Southwest/ATA accessible to smaller markets, particularly in the Northeast, meaning all three of South Florida’s major airports could benefit from the acquisition.
Southwest is the third-largest carrier at PBIA (behind Delta and JetBlue), but does not operate in Miami. ATA has only a token presence in Miami.
Beginning this month, FLL will offer new or increased nonstop service to 46 domestic and international destinations for the winter. That’s good news for travelers, because FLL
officials estimate the airport will experience a 7.7 percent growth in available seats during the first quarter of 2011 compared to the first quarter of 2010.
At Miami International Airport, the new Concourse D Skytrain now transports passengers from one end of the mile-long facility to the other for quick connections to everything from flights and baggage claim to stores, restaurants and passport control.
Designed to decrease walking time by as much as 70 percent for domestic connecting passengers and up to 34 percent for international connecting travelers, Skytrain’s system of four-car trains has the capacity to transport 9,000 passengers per hour. According to
airport officials, nearly 40 percent of all MIA passengers are connecting to other flights, with Concourse D handling more than 20 million passengers annually.
The airport also reopened its renovated former Concourse A and its 16 gates; it also opened a Regional Commuter Facility that includes two new concourse-level gates and a passenger lounge for American Eagle regional jet flights. Only six of North Terminal’s 50
gates remain to be opened in 2011.