For frequent fliers
By John Welbesjwelbes
Posted: 01/24/2012 12:01:00 AM CST
Updated 68 minutes ago
Keep your shoes on, leave your laptop in its bag and don’t pull out your plastic baggie full of little shampoo bottles.
If that sounds like a dream trip through airport security, grab a pillow because it could happen for you soon.
On Tuesday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, federal security officials unveiled TSA Pre, a pre-screening initiative that allows invited passengers of Delta Air Lines and American Air Lines to go through a faster, less cumbersome security checkpoint.
Not only can passengers in the TSA Pre avoid unpacking much of their carry-ons, but they can also leave on their light jackets and belts.
For passengers, “this is the best thing to happen to them at checkpoints in more than a decade,” said Tim Anderson, the airport’s deputy executive director. The change may take some travelers by surprise, he added. “We’ll have to train people not to take off their shoes and jackets.”
Currently, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines frequent flier programs have to invite you to apply for the new federal program – you can’t ask for it. So far, about 250,000 have taken up the airlines on the offer and applied for the special designation.
The lanes are in the test phase and the Transportation Security Administration is still determining if they’ll be rolled out more broadly, said Joe Taney, regional director for the TSA.
Applicants can be rejected for the Pre lane designation, but don’t expect an explanation. Information about howauthorities decide to award someone the designation isn’t publicly available, Taney said.
One other way to get access to the Pre passenger-screening checkpoint is to apply to become a member of the Trusted Traveler Program through the Customs and Border Protection service. That program, aimed at frequent international travelers, is detailed at the customs service’s website, www.CBP.gov.
More than 300 passengers had gone through the Twin Cities’ new Pre line by 8 a.m. on its first day. At test sites at other airports, the Pre line has taken from 30 seconds to 2 minutes off the average amount of time normally taken to pass through security.
“I love it,” said Bob Williams of Stillwater, who made his first trip through the Pre line Tuesday morning. A Gold Elite frequent flier on Delta Air Lines, he received an email from Delta inviting him to apply. Applicants provide some personal information and, if they’re approved, information is embedded in the barcode on their boarding pass that lets the TSA know they’re pre-screened.
After cruising through the Minneapolis-St. Paul line with his shoes on, Williams said he’ll seek out the Pre line at other airports.
With its new checkpoint, Minneapolis-St. Paul International is the seventh airport nationally to start offering the TSA Pre line. The others are Atlanta, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Detroit, Miami, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. In the next few weeks, Delta fliers in Salt Lake City and American Airlines passengers at New York’s JFK will also have access to Pre checkpoints.
While participants can expect a faster trip through security, randomly selected passengers who are OK’d for the Pre lanes could still be subjected to more thorough checks, the TSA’s Taney said.
Passengers OK’d for the program are seen as “not no risk, but lower risk,” Taney said. Other layers of security also exist throughout the airport to ensure safety, he added.
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