U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) executives said they will use new approaches to increase enrollment in “Pre-Check,” a program that pre-screens airline passengers for security risks and helps smooth the flow of people through airport security lines. Airport executives complain the program has gone underused.
Pre-Check is part of the TSA’s “intelligence-driven, risk-based” security strategy. Under the program, passengers agree to provide the agency with information about themselves before they travel within the U.S. Eligible passengers receive airline boarding passes with their program status embedded in the barcode. The TSA’s transportation security officers read the barcodes and refer Pre-Check passengers to expedited screening lanes. Unlike other passengers, they can pass through security without removing their shoes, laptop computers, belts or other personal items.
The TSA has built the membership in Pre-Check from three sources: members of airline frequent-flier programs invited to participate by the airlines; certain members of trusted traveler programs administered by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency for people entering the U.S.; and federal government and military personnel. The program began in October 2011 as a pilot effort with American Airlines and Delta, and has since expanded to include Alaska Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways. Speaking at a conference in Arlington, Va., on December 10, TSA Administrator John Pistole said the agency will meet its first-year goal of providing Pre-Check at 35 airports by the end of the month, and will process five million pre-screened passengers. The American Association of Airport Executives and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of the TSA and CBP, sponsored the conference.
Airport executives said that relatively few passengers use the Pre-Check lanes, partly because of the lack of “reciprocity” among participating airlines. Currently, Pre-Check eligibility for one airline does not apply to another airline. They pressed TSA executives to consider airport-based approaches to enrolling passengers in the program. “I come from an airport where we don’t have a dominant carrier, and the [Pre-Check] line often goes unused. The airlines are not getting the message out to our premium travelers,” said Mark Crosby, chief of public safety and security with the Port of Portland, Oregon.
Douglas Hofsass, TSA assistant administrator, said the agency will increase its practice of “managed inclusion,” which involves choosing passengers who haven’t undergone prescreening to use Pre-Check lanes staffed by behavior detection officers and canine officers with specially trained dogs. That approach is being tested in Indianapolis and Tampa. The TSA is also in discussions with Southwest, JetBlue, Hawaiian and Frontier to expand participation in the program beyond the five current carriers.