TSA allows ads in bins across U.S.

WASHINGTON -- Airline passengers could start seeing more ads in an unusual place: the bottoms of the plastic bins that hold their shoes, cellphones and jackets at checkpoints.

The Transportation Security Administration says it will allow airports nationwide to begin selling ads in the plastic bins. The program aims to upgrade equipment at airport checkpoints at no cost to the federal government, TSA spokeswoman Sterling Payne said.

The TSA gets its payment for the ads in the form of new plastic bins, carts for screeners, and stainless steel tables for passengers to unload their belongings. Advertisers buy that equipment for the right to advertise in the bins, and airports also collect a cut of the advertising revenue.

The ad program follows a year-long experiment in which the TSA allowed ads to be displayed in bins at 14 airports, including Los Angeles, Denver and Seattle-Tacoma. The TSA received $435,000 worth of new checkpoint equipment, Payne said.

Most of the bin ads so far have been bought by Zappos.com, an online shoe and apparel retailer. Sony and Sylvania have also bought ads.

At one airport in the test, John Wayne in Orange County, Calif., the rolling carts helped the flow of security lines because bins were easily and quickly transported to the passengers waiting to go through metal detectors, airport spokeswoman Courtney Wiercioch said.

The program could expand quickly, said Joe Ambrefe, president of SecurityPoint Media, which sold bin ads at the airports in the TSA pilot program. "It's premium space for a premium audience," Ambrefe said. The 12-inch-by-18-inch ads can be seen by several hundred thousand people a day at a single airport.

New York City's three major airports — Kennedy, Newark and LaGuardia — are considering the bin ads, said Ron Marsico, a spokesman for the agency that runs the airports.

Ambrefe said his company has bought 14,000 new bins for the 14 airports where it's selling ads. The company buys new bins every three months to display new ads. Old bins are recycled, primarily into building materials, Ambrefe said.

Airports must get approval to sell ads from a local TSA security director and must show that the new bins and carts make security screening more efficient, Payne said.

The carts have improved working conditions for the TSA's 48,000 screeners by alleviating the need for them to carry stacks of bins around a checkpoint, Payne said. Screeners have had high injury rates, though injuries have declined in the past year.