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Expedited Airport Screening Being Expanded
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As much as everyone appreciates cheap travel deals, such as cheap airplane tickets, discount hotel rooms, discount travel packages, and cheap vacation packages, some travelers get frustrated upon arriving at airports because of long security lines.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has decided to address this problem by significantly expanding its Pre-check program that offers expedited screening by inviting travelers to pay a fee for voluntary background checks.
Participants in the Pre-check program are directed to separate lines at airport checkpoints and are able to leave on shoes and light coats, as well as keep laptops in their carry-ons while going through security.
Currently this program is available at 40 airports and limited to members of participants in frequent flier programs from Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, United, US Airways, and Virgin America airlines.
TSA has decided to expand eligibility for the program to include anyone who pays a one-time fee (good for five years) of $85 to pay for an application as well as to submit personal information including address and birthplace, a background check, and fingerprints.
Enrollment centers for the expanded program will open this fall at Washington’s Dulles and Indianapolis airports, with more locations expected to roll out at a later date.
TSA has fundamentally shifted its airport security approach from one that exposes all travelers to the same level of security to one that focuses the most scrutiny on those travelers it deems the riskiest. By wasting less time on trusted travelers the belief is that security can better focus its attention on potential terrorists.
Risk based security is believed to be far more efficient and effective than a one size fits all approach, which was TSA’s prior approach to airport security.
TSA’s objective is to expand its Pre-check program to cover 25 percent of all fliers by the end of 2013 and as many as 50 percent by the end of next year. To date, 12 million travelers have used Pre-check since it was instituted in 2011. An average of 1.8 million people fly every day in America.
Experts believe that easing checkpoint security for most fliers will lead to reduce frustration and criticism of airport security.
With the expansion of Pre-Check this program will be similar to the Custom and Border Protection’s popular Global Entry program for international travelers. Participants in Global Entry pay $100, good for five years, to apply and fill out a travel questionnaire as well as submit to a background check and fingerprinting.
Global Entry participants are able to quickly go through Customs by swiping their passports at a kiosk and then passing printed receipts to Customs agents.
The expansion of the Pre-check program will substantially expedite screening for its members. A positive side effect of this expansion is that by having so many more people go through the expedited screening lanes, the regular screening lines are expected to be much shorter.
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