Why Long Airport Security Lines Are Going Away
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (TheStreet) -- The long lines of passengers waiting to pass through airport security are not gone -- not yet at least.
But the most important transition in the 11-year history of the Transportation Security Administration is underway, as the agency moves to implement its Pre-Check program, which allows select passengers to pass through security in about 30 seconds, not only expediting the clearance of those passengers but also shortening wait times for other passengers as well.
Under John Pistole, who became the agency's fifth administrator in July, 2010, TSA has moved gradually to risk-based screening procedures and away from a "one size fits all" approach. In recent months, it has eased security clearance procedures for senior citizens, young children, and wounded veterans. But nothing that has been implemented so far could have as broad an impact of the Pre-Check program.
"TSA is not here to be an obstacle to commerce," said Mark Haught, TSA's federal security director for Charlotte, told reporters at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Tuesday morning. "We're here to be a partner."
So far, Pre-Check has been introduced in 18 airports including Charlotte and Tampa International, which were both added this week. By the end of the year, 35 of the nation's busiest airports will have the program, which offers pre-clearance for passengers who either have extremely frequent traveler status in an airline's mileage program or have applied through a the Custom and Border Patrol's global entry program at www.globalentry.gov.
Faster clearance means exemption, usually but not always, from various requirements including removal of shoes, jackets and belts as well as unpacking computers.
The TSA inspects about 1.7 million passengers daily or more than 600 million annually in U.S. airports. So far, coincidentally, about 1.7 million passengers have taken advantage of the Pre-Check program, first implemented late last year.
Airlines are generally pleased with the program because it reduces wait times for their passengers. "We've seen considerably reduced screening times for passengers who are enrolled in the program," said Delta(DAL) spokesman Anthony Black. Delta and American(AAMRQ.PK) were the two airlines to pilot the program,