The U.S. Transportation Security Administration for the first time will let travelers apply directly for expedited airport screenings to avoid lanes requiring shoe removal and laptop checks.
In the agency’s biggest expansion of eligibility for its PreCheck program, U.S. air travelers will be able to apply online or at airports for access to speedier security lanes. PreCheck was previously restricted to frequent fliers nominated by airlines or enrolled through U.S. Customs’ programs for international travelers.
"This initiative will increase the number of U.S. citizens eligible to receive expedited screening through TSA PreCheck," TSA Administrator JohnPistole said in a statement. "PreCheck enables us to focus on the travelers we know the least about, adding efficiency and effectiveness to the screening process."
Dulles International Airport near Washington and Indianapolis International Airport will be the first two airports to take applications, Pistole said. The effort will expand to more than 300 locations, he said.
Travelers would need to provide certain personal information, including date of birth, address, height, weight and hair color — similar to what’s required now under the U.S. Customs programs. They’ll also need a government-issued identification card.
An online application will be followed by an on-site interview, at which candidates for PreCheck will be fingerprinted. The tentative plan is to charge $85 for a five-year membership, TSA said.
The TSA will use existing programs that provide background checks on truck drivers and port workers, Pistole said in an interview. The agency’s enrollment sites will include airports and facilities used to vet applications for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, he said.
Once approved, fliers will be provided a PreCheck number to give to airlines or enter when making a reservation.
Travelers at Honolulu Airport on Friday afternoon seemed receptive to the program.
"Yeah, I think that would be a worthwhile thing to do," said Ammon Cabrinha, a Hawaiian Airlines employee who lives in Hauula. "I guess if you’re flying a lot, then it’s worth it, but other than that I would just wait in the line."
Sam Tallam, who arrived at the airport with his family to fly back to Atlanta, said he is a frequent flier with Delta Airlines and opted to go through the PreCheck screening about a month ago. He described the process as easy and said he doesn’t mind it being opened up to the general public.
"As long as they’re doing the background check, I think it’s good," Tallam said. He also said the proposed fee is about what he was charged to sign up for the program through Delta, and that he thinks the cost is reasonable.
Traveler Sandy Nguyen, who was at the airport to move to the East Coast, agreed.
"It’s less than $100 and it’s good for five years," Nguyen said. "For me that’s reasonable."
Nguyen also said she is OK with expanding the PreCheck program, and that her family might consider participating.
"When it comes to safety and security, we don’t mind the background check," she said. "There’s nothing for us to hide, so I’m OK with it."
Amy Trevino, on the other hand, said the cost and background check are reasons her family probably won’t take advantage of the program.
"The only reason I wouldn’t do it is I don’t know if I want them checking all that," said Trevino, who was waiting at the airport with her children to move to Washington, D.C. "I’d rather just go through the machines."
"(The fee) would probably keep us from doing it, especially if we had to do the whole family and we don’t travel enough," Trevino added.
Leyland Silva Pinto, who travels to and from Hawaii often for business, said he is from Vancouver, British Columbia, which has a similar PreCheck program but doesn’t charge a fee.
"So if they hear of this, they might start charging," he said with a laugh.
Forty U.S. airports and six airlines — Alaska Air Group Inc., American Airlines Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc., US Airways Group Inc. and Virgin America Inc. — already participate in PreCheck, according to TSA’s website.