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New screening system at McCarran airport ahead of busy holiday weekend

Airline passengers planning to get away for the Labor Day holiday weekend might see some new security procedures at McCarran International Airport.

The Transportation Security Administration on Thursday will introduce an automated screening system that’s supposed to process travelers a little more quickly through Terminal 3.

“This airport is busy year-round, but there has been enough planning for us to be able to put this in place as we head into Labor Day weekend,” TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said.

Three reconfigured security lanes will be equipped with upgraded features, including bins that are 25 percent larger and capable of holding roll-aboard luggage.

Each of those bins is equipped with radio-frequency chips, creating another layer of accountability for a traveler’s carry-on property during the security process, Dankers said. Bags and bins deemed to be safe will roll down a conveyor belt, while those carrying a prohibited item will be diverted to a separate area where TSA officers can take a closer look.

Additionally, the new system automatically returns bins to the passenger station so that TSA officers don’t have to manually collect them.

TSA officials started installing the new system at the end of July, followed by roughly two weeks of testing alongside existing security lines as a way to compare speed and efficiency, Dankers said.

Airport and TSA officials are scheduled to provide a public demonstration Thursday morning at McCarran, which will be the sixth airport to implement the system after airports in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, New Jersey and Los Angeles.

The change in airport security measures comes as an estimated 509,000 airline passengers are expected to depart or arrive at McCarran International from Friday to Monday, a 4 percent jump from last year’s holiday weekend, airport spokeswoman Christine Crews said.

“We are hearing, anecdotally, that Houston may have some impact on travel as airport operations ramp back up at Hobby and Bush airports,” Crews said. “Because of that, we’re expecting to see higher than usual departing traffic on Saturday, which is typically a slow day at McCarran.”

Las Vegas will be the second most popular destination to close out the summer travel season after Orlando, Florida, AAA officials said.

About 324,000 tourists are expected to descend on Sin City from Friday to Monday, dropping roughly $249.7 million on food, hotels and gambling — a slim .3 percent increase in travelers and spending compared with last year, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Of the 148,433 total available hotel rooms in the region, 96 percent will be occupied for the weekend, the authority said.

Roughly 180,000 visitors will drive to Las Vegas, with the heaviest traffic concentrated along the Strip and Interstate 15, said Tony Illia, a spokesman for the Nevada Transportation Department.

Bus riders should take note that the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada will operate on a Sunday schedule on Monday, agency spokeswoman Catherine Lu said.

Lyft is offering discounts up to $5 off the cost of two rides during Labor Day weekend as part of an effort to reduce the number of impaired drivers on the road. From 12:01 a.m. Friday to 11:59 p.m. Monday, new and existing Lyft users can get the discount by using the code LDW17, Lyft spokeswoman Victoria Pomo said.

Uber passengers taking their first trip from the airport to the Strip can get a 50 percent discount for two rides by using the code LVFUN. The discount will be applied only after riders opt-in through an email sent after their first trip, Uber spokeswoman Stephanie Sedlak said.

Contact Art Marroquin at amarroquin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @AMarroquin_LV on Twitter.

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