Miami part of TSA test for faster airport screening

07/15/2011 4:38 PM

07/15/2011 6:06 PM

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration will start testing faster passenger screening, based on identity, at airports around the country this fall.

Some frequent fliers and U.S. citizens who are members of Customs and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler programs will be eligible for the pre-flight screening program, TSA Administrator John S. Pistole said today in an e-mailed statement.

Participating airports and airlines will include AMR Corp.’s American Airlines from Miami International and Dallas-Fort Worth International airports and Delta Air Lines Inc. out of Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airports. The program will expand to other airlines and airports.

“Allowing TSA to focus its finite resources on that which creates the greatest threat is both good policy and good security,” Nicholas E. Calio, chief executive officer of the Air Transport Association of America, said in a statement. ATA is a Washington-based trade group that represents U.S. airlines including American and Delta.

“Those airports are huge airports, they have a lot of diversity of the kinds of travelers that go through there, and the key thing is that American and Delta,” agreed to participate in the initial program, said Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition. If the program is successful and expands to more airports, hubs are likely to be the next airports on the list, said Tim Smith, an American Airlines spokesman.

“We’re pleased and anxious to get started on the pilot program,” Smith said. “I think you could say the current screening process is pretty much a one-size fits all.”

Delta “is pleased” to participate in the pilot program and “hopes that any future large-scale implementation” will help bolster the carrier’s customer service, Susan Elliot, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

The program’s success depends on reaching a high number of people using the program relatively quickly, Mitchell, whose Radnor, Pennsylvania-based group represents corporate travel managers. said in a telephone interview.

“You really need to reach 20 or so million travelers at the major airports,” he said. “I think from the point where the proof of concept” is approved by Pistole, “there ought to be a very meaningful, top-50 airport,” expansion within the year, he said.

Getting people to sign up will require “massive marketing and sales” or a free program, he said.

Select frequent flyers of the two airlines may be notified starting this week of their eligibility and will have to opt in to the program, according to ATA’s statement. The faster screenings will begin in the fall.

United Airlines, US Airways and Southwest Airlines are among the airlines that will be included in the second phase of the program if the “proof of concept is successful,” according to the ATA statement.

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