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Trusted Traveler Program rolls out to 35 airports

Trusted Traveler Program rolls out to 35 airports

Most consumers are in favor of the program expanding, despite some security snags along the way

January 2nd, 2013 by Daryl Nelson of ConsumerAffairs in News

If you were waiting for your local airport to join the new trusted travelers Pre Check program, you may just be in luck.

TSA has just announced that it expanded the expedited passenger service to 35 airports across the U.S. for passengers of Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines US Airways and Alaska Airlines.

Those who are a part of Border Protection in the United States, U.S. Customs, Global Entry and SENTRI, can also use the trusted travelers program that began in October of last year in Detroit Metropolitan Wayne Country airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Fort Worth and Dallas International airports and Miami International airports. 

TSA Administrator John Pistole said the program will also be rolled out to many other U.S. airports in the coming future.

28 largest

"Over the past year, we've expanded TSA Pre Check to 35 airports, covering all 28 of the largest airports along with seven others across the country," he said in a statement.

"In the coming year, we will continue partnering with airlines, airports, and the traveling public to further expand TSA Pre Check making air travel safer and more efficient for the traveling public."

The Trusted Traveler Program was designed to give what the TSA calls low-risk travelers the ability to go through special lines and kiosks when making domestic flights.

In order to be a trusted traveler, passengers have to be part of a frequent flyer program and undergo an intense level of pre-screening, and if the screening checks out, that information is placed on the passenger's boarding pass by a bar code.

Once a TSA worker reads the barcode, the passenger is pointed to a specific lane where they may be able to forego the traditional screening by not having to remove their shoes, belt, jacket and laptop from its case.

Also, if a trusted traveler is toting a carry-on that's compliant with TSA guidelines, they may be able to proceed to the plane without removing the bags' contents or opening it.

In addition, children who are age 12 and younger can also go through the designated security lanes and pass some of the traditional screening measures, if they're traveling with a person in the trusted travelers program.

Eager to expand

Pistole said the TSA is eager to expand the program to just about all U.S. airports, since it cuts down on the high cost of screening each passenger the traditional way, and the more TSA agents are able to screen passengers before they get to the airport, the more cost effective and convenient it will be for both the trusted traveler, and the regular passengers who isn't in the program.

The TSA explained the need for this type of program will only continue to grow, as the rate of air travel will increase by extremely large margins within the next couple of decades.

"Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and TSA Administrator John Pistole deserve our thanks for their commitment to expanding the PreCheck trusted traveler program and reaching their goal of 35 participating airports by year's end," said Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association president.

"Air travel continues to be the gateway to commerce and improving efficiency while maintaining the current high level of security is a win-win for travelers and the American economy."

Not trouble-free

Although many consumers are pleased that such a program is being rolled out, critics of the program say just because a person passes the pre-screening test, doesn't mean they shouldn't still be checked by security agents before getting on a plane, and according to some recent problems with a couple pf trusted travelers, those critics may be right.

Just a few days before Christmas, a passenger on the trusted travelers program was found with a shotgun in one of the expedited security lanes before entering the U.S. from Canada, which critics say is proof that the trusted traveler program has some huge flaws that need to be dealt with.

The passenger was quickly removed from the trusted traveler program for having a shotgun on airport grounds, and security reps said airports will take a zero tolerance approach to similar infractions.

"Participation in the NEXUS program provides a unique privilege of a higher level of trust for members," said Roderick Blanchard, the Director of the Detroit Port of Entry. "All violations will result in removal from the program."

The TSA also said just because someone is in the trusted travelers program, doesn't mean they still can't be checked at the security gate, as agents still have the full right to screen anyone they would like the traditional way.