New program will select passengers at random to get special treatment, like leaving on their shoes.
WASHINGTON – More than a quarter of U.S. fliers can expect speedier passage through airport checkpoints — shoes and coats on, laptop computers untouched — by year’s end under a program announced Monday by the Transportation Security Administration.
About 450,000 passengers a day will be eligible for the special treatment as existing programs are expanded to include a random selection of people deemed low security risks by the TSA.
The passengers chosen for the expedited service will not be required to submit personal information beyond that provided when they book flights.
“To do this, the government and TSA are collecting no new information,” said Joseph Salvator, the TSA’s deputy assistant administrator. “Everything we’re using to make these risk assessments is information that the passengers currently provide the TSA, which is name, date of birth and gender.”
Passengers will not know they have been selected for the faster lines until they receive their boarding pass or, in cases where the designation has been coded, when they present their boarding pass at a security checkpoint.
From there, they will be directed to a line currently reserved for members of the Global Entry program and the TSA’s Pre-Check program, and those who fall into exclusive categories, such as frequent fliers, members of the military and passengers older than 75 or younger than 12.
Carry-on luggage will pass through X-ray machines and passengers will go through metal detectors, but several of the steps that slow lines and frustrate fliers will not be required.
The TSA plans to have the expanded program in place by early next month, well before the Thanksgiving holiday weekend that is the most heavily traveled of the year.
The worldwide Global Entry program and the domestic Pre-Check program require passengers to submit applications and fingerprints. In return, those passengers are eligible for expedited lines most of the time.
Expansion of the program to randomly selected low-risk passengers is in keeping with the goal of TSA Administrator John S. Pistole to redirect his agency’s focus toward those who appear to pose the greatest threat.
“It’s our philosophy that one shoe size doesn’t fit everybody,” Salvator said. “When TSA was stood up after 9/11, we treated everybody the same. We’re trying to move off that model and use a risk-based approach and the intelligence we have developed over the years.”
Although TSA officials acknowledged that passengers chosen at random for the faster line might become motivated to enroll in the Pre-Check program, they said that was not the objective of the plan announced Monday.
Passengers accepted in Pre-Check pay $85 for a five-year membership.