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(CNN) — Airport security lines can be a holiday traveler's nightmare, but this year a handful of airports across the United States have introduced programs that let you reserve a spot in the TSA line for free.
The programs are run by third-party virtual queuing platforms. Whyline runs the programs in Seattle, Los Angeles and Newark.
Seattle's Spot Saver program had nearly 187,000 reservations from May to August this year, according to its website. LAX Fast Lane, a 90-day pilot program at Los Angeles International Airport, allows travelers flying out of two of its terminals to reserve a TSA time up to three days before their flight or in the ticketing area of the airport. The program launched on October 21 and runs through January 18.
Customers can sign up for a 15-minute reservation window, and LAX spokesperson Heath Montgomery said those who do won't wait longer than five minutes.
For these programs, travelers can typically only reserve a spot during limited time frames in designated terminals. The LAX program is available only from 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Terminals 7 and 8 for United Airlines. The Seattle program is also limited to morning hours, from 4 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Montgomery said the LAX program is part of an effort to "put more of the passenger journey into the hands of our customers" and create a digital marketplace through virtual customization and scheduling services.
"This is another piece of that puzzle where we are making air travel more predictable and less stressful," Montgomery said. "Because the last thing you want to do is show up to the airport and really not know how long it's going to take to get through security."
The initiative has economic implications as well. Montgomery said spending less time in line means more time shopping, eating and perusing amenities in the airport. While Covid-19 was not the reason for the program's launch at LAX, Montgomery said reduced wait times could ease congestion and encourage social distancing in long lines.
Customers of TSA PreCheck and Clear are already used to an expedited security process, but these new programs at select airports don't require membership fees or an application.
Since its launch, the Seattle airport's program is still free. Montgomery said he is not sure whether the LAX program will remain free, and said they are hoping to implement more fast lanes across the airport if they formally launch the program.
LAX does not have an estimated launch date for a permanent service yet, Montgomery said. After analyzing the pilot program's data, he said they will coordinate with TSA and the airlines to see how the program can expand.
"It's not surprising that you've seen the same kind of concepts pop up at three or four different airports," Montgomery said. "We've all had the same idea essentially, that providing an additional element of predictability to the airport experience is really valuable to a lot of people."