Categorized | Etcetera

TSA tests ‘pre-screening’ of select passengers at 4 airports…

Posted on 05 October 2011

A select few veteran travelers will find snaking through security at four U.S. airports a little easier if they gave the government personal information about themselves.


The Transportation Security Administration on Tuesday began testing a program at Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas/Fort Worth and Miami airports that will allow expedited screening of some frequent fliers on Delta and American flights.


The program — called “PreCheck — was promised by TSA chief John Pistole this summer after passengers, airlines and some travel groups complained of the stringent, one-size-fits-all body scans and patdown procedures currently in place.


It’s designed to test a possible shift to a method of screening of passengers that relies more on intelligence and a risk-assessment of travelers.


Under the pilot program, travelers who provide the government personal information will be issued a bar code on their boarding passes that will be scanned by agents who check identification.


Passengers will be routed to a security checkpoint lane, where they may be allowed to keep their shoes, belt and jacket on and leave their toiletry and laptop bags in the luggage, TSA says. Eligible passengers will continue to be pulled for random screening, however.


Some members of Delta and American frequent-flier programs were invited to participate if they were willing to provide personal information, including their travel history, to the TSA.


U.S. citizens who have been accepted as members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection‘s other “trusted traveler” programs — Global Entry (for international arrivals), Sentri (U.S.-Mexico border crossing) and Nexus (U.S.-Canada border) — are also eligible when they fly on the two airlines.


For now, the test screening is only for participants on domestic flights out of the four airports. If it’s successful, the agency says, it plans to expand it to other airlines and airports.


About 8,000 eligible travelers are estimated go through security at the four pilot airports a day, TSA says.


“By learning more about travelers through information they voluntarily provide, and combining that information with our other layers of security, we can focus more resources on higher-risk and unknown passengers,” Pistole says.


The tests were welcomed by some critics of TSA’s current screening methods.


“TSA is getting the message from travelers that we could do this better,” says Geoff Freeman of the U.S. Travel Association. “But there are a lot of questions to be answered.” He says TSA has yet to address the fact that vetted travelers still must wait in lines, how the program will be financed and how it could expand to include all travelers.

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