TSA frequent traveler program earning good reviews, agency says


A traveler undergoes an enhanced pat down by a Transportation Security Administration agent at the Denver International Airport. (John Moore/GETTY IMAGES)

A pilot program launched in July at airports in Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit and Miami permits pre-qualified passengers who are members of frequent-flier clubs operated by Delta and American Airlines and frequent traveler programs operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to pass through security checkpoints more swiftly if they provide personal information in advance. In most cases, the passengers do not need to remove items from carry-on luggage for screening.

TSA Administrator John S. Pistole is set to tell lawmakers Wednesday that the program is proving successful and “holds great potential to strengthen security while significantly enhancing the travel experience, whenever possible, for passengers.”

Pistole is slated to testify at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on changes to aviation security in the decade since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The panel provided copies of his testimony in advance.

A similar pilot program permitting crew members from 22 airlines to provide personal information in advance is also proving popular, according to Pistole, with more than 59,000 uniformed pilots enrolled in its first two months of operation.


Transportation Security Administration Administrator John S. Pistole. (Mark Gail/WASHINGTON POST)

The change has cut — but not eliminated — the number of children subjected to pat-downs, Pistole said, meaning the agency can “focus its finite resources on those who pose higher risks to transportation.”

Travel and transportation industry leaders set to testify at the hearing are slated to push Congress to adopt a trusted-traveler program nationwide and to radically rethink the security screening process. The International Air Transport Association, representing more than 230 airlines, is pushing for a “risk-based” process that would divide passengers into three security lanes: frequent travelers, normal screening or enhanced screening.

“We won’t settle for anything less than a revolution in the way passengers are treated at the airport,” IATA President Kenneth J. Dunlap is slated to tell senators.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Further reading:

Pilot program to speed security checks for some air travelers

TSA, Congress to review screening procedures after pat-down of 6-year-old girl

For more, visit PostPolitics and The Fed Page.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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