New Security Program Means Shorter Wait For Air Travelers

Nov 7, 2013

An air traveler arrives at a security checkpoint at the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock.
Credit Chris Hickey / KUAR News

The Transportation Security Administration and the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport are implementing a new screening process the two entities say will speed up the overall wait time for passengers. In a news conference Wednesday, officials with the TSA and the Little Rock Airport gave reporters a look at how the expedited process works for travelers who have already signed up.

The new system, called Pre-Check, allows certain passengers, including frequent fliers of participating airlines, to avoid some of the hassles of security lines said Ron Mathieu, director of the Little Rock Airport.

“We're really really happy and pleased to have this system here. We're excited about what that means to our passengers. We're excited that that will mean even shorter wait times for our passengers at the checkpoint and even have a better positive experience not only in terms of the facilities that have been improved but also the processing times at the checkpoint,” Mathieu said.

The program is part of wider security measures the TSA is putting in place, said David Wynne, Federal Security Director for the State of Arkansas. While Pre-Check may speed up security lines, he noted that it now also lets the TSA avoid many of the drawbacks of a one-size-fits-all style of security.

“It's more about focusing on the passengers that we know least about....this screening process starts even before you arrive at the airport. And we know a lot about travelers before they get here and this program allows us to focus on the travelers that we know least about and focus our resources,” said Wynne

Participants must go through a vetting process based on information the TSA collects through passengers’ airlines. Wynne declined to provide further information on exactly how the vetting process works and what specific information the TSA examines, citing security concerns.

Pre-Check allows its participants to avoid some inconvenient steps of the airport screening process like removing shoes, taking laptops out of bags and removing belts.

The several major participating airlines can invite their frequent fliers to opt in to the program. Other air travelers can be selected to participate if they meet “existing Secure Flight system requirements”, if they are already members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler programs or if they are U.S. Military personnel with a Common Access Card, according to the TSA.

Those not affiliated with those programs can still apply for Pre-Check status. According to the agency's website, applicants must fill out an online form, submit their fingerprints and pay an 85 dollar enrollment fee for a 5-year “term of eligibility”.

The program has already been implemented in nearly 100 airports across the country.