Airport considering system to allow travelers to retain prohibited items

·3 min read

Sep. 25—AVOCA — A new system, if enacted, would allow air travelers to send prohibited items home to themselves, avoiding confiscation.

It's called "Flippit" — a patent-pending idea for helping passengers hold on to prohibited items discovered in TSA Security lines, rather than surrendering them.

Richard Cacciato and Natalie Yates of Blue Iceberg LLC, presented their idea to the Bi-County Airport Board at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport on Thursday.

"Our son, who is a Boy Scout, went on a trip and forgot to take his Swiss Army knife out of his backpack," Cacciato said. "A TSA officer at Dulles airport found it, and he had to give it up. It wasn't expensive, but it had a lot of sentimental value, and this was a very sad and frustrating experience. Most people we know have had the same experience, and it still bothers them today, no matter how long ago it actually happened. From this was born the idea for Flippit, which enables passengers to send prohibited items to themselves for a fee, and thus not have to lose them."

Cacciato started his career at Procter & Gamble and he said he knows it's important to assess customer opinion.

"We conducted an extensive survey of airline passengers, and the consumer feedback provides strong support for our idea," he said.

—75% of respondents have had to surrender an item to TSA while going through airport security.

—Over 50% of respondents tried to convince the TSA Officer to let them keep the item.

—45% saw another traveler argue with a TSA Agent.

—73% of respondents say this experience needs to be fixed.

—68% of respondents say they'd pay to keep an item.

Cacciato said Flippit's solution:

—Speeds up the security line.

—Reduces bottlenecks, crowding, and frustration.

—Reduces stress for passengers, TSA agents, and airport staff.

Cacciato and Yates proposed to run a 4-6 week test at the airport that would be staffed by a Flippit team and conducted in close collaboration with airport management. He said there would be ongoing reviews and if successful, Flippit would be offered as an ongoing service.

The board asked if TSA is receptive to the idea of Flippit and Cacciato said he has submitted a proposal to the agency for consideration.

"They are interested," Cacciato said. "They don't want to be 'bad guys' — they don't want to take your grandfather's hunting knife."

Cacciato said the test program at the airport would help TSA make a decision whether it is an acceptable service to offer.

In other business, airport Executive Director Carl Beardsley reported that passenger activity has increased significantly over 2020. He said passenger enplanements for August 2021 increased 98.6% to 14,689 from 7,396 in the month of August 2020. Beardsley said the increase is mainly attributed to more people opting to fly as the country continues to re-open.

In August 2021, eight departing flights were cancelled — seven for weather and one for no crew. This accounts for 441 (2.8%) out of a total 15,848 departure seats. Also, seven arriving flights were cancelled — six for weather and one for no crew.

Beardsley also said that both airlines are planning to add seats to accommodate the increase in travelers. He also noted the return of Boscov's charter flights to Orlando have resumed.

The board also approved a solicitation of an RFQ for an Air Service Development Consultant and another for the maintenance of the airport's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

The board accepted the resignation of Mark Micencik from his position in maintenance effective Oct. 17, and appointed Frank Rittel, of Harding to the position of mechanic, upon completion of clearances.

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