New York’s three airports will be among 28 where pre-approved frequent fliers can get through security faster as the U.S. Transportation Security Administration expands expedited screening.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport are also on the list, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters today in Arlington, Virginia. US Airways Group Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc. and Alaska Air Group Inc. will join AMR Corp.’s American Airlines and Delta Air Lines Inc. in participating this year, according to a department statement.
The expansion marks a potential shift in TSA screening processes started after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said Jeffrey Sural, a former assistant agency administator. Besides cutting time and hassles for travelers, it may speed screenings by shortening from normal passenger lines, he said.
“This is the beginning of a wholesale change to the screening experience,” said Sural, now a lawyer and public-policy adviser at Alston & Bird LLP in Washington.
PreCheck passengers still go through screening checkpoints. They get a separate line and in most cases the streamlined process.
Participants in TSA’s PreCheck program -- who must be invited and agree to provide information such as flight history to the government -- can keep their shoes, belts and light coats on at designated checkpoints, according to the agency. Those fliers can keep laptops and liquids packed in carry-ons.
“Good, thoughtful, sensible security by its very nature facilitates lawful travel and legitimate commerce,” Napolitano said. The program expansion “will increase our security capabilities and expedite the screening process for travelers we consider our travel partners,” she said.
New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International and Dulles in Virginia are two airports Sept. 11 hijackers used to board airliners before attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon. Boston’s Logan International Airport, also used by hijackers that day, will get expedited screening.
New York’s JFK and Salt Lake City International Airport will have PreCheck in place by the end of February, said Greg Soule, a TSA spokesman. Washington’s Reagan National and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport will be added before the end of March, he said.
The program is currently used by eligible Delta and American passengers at seven U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Detroit, Atlanta and Dallas. Participating passengers get a special bar code imprinted on their tickets and are directed to specific screening lines.
More than 336,000 passengers have been screened through the program, according to the TSA. The expansion will be cost-neutral, though it will require the agency to shift resources, Soule said.
PreCheck passengers proceed through the streamlined queues at the TSA’s discretion. The agency will always incorporate random and unpredictable measures “to prevent terrorists from gaming the system,” according to a TSA fact sheet.
Sparing resources on trusted travelers moves the agency away from a “one-size-fits-all approach” to a more “intelligence-driven, risk-based” system, TSA Administrator John Pistole said today. Pistole has said he would like to provide speedy screening to members of the military and travelers with government security clearances in a PreCheck-style program.
“TSA PreCheck moves us closer to our goal of delivering the most effective and efficient screening by recognizing most passengers do not pose a threat to security,” Pistole said.