Registered Traveler Test Is Ending Inconclusively
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
The federal government plans to end a test program this week that speeds airline travelers to the front of airport security checkpoints in exchange for providing more personal information, the Transportation Security Administration said yesterday.
The "Registered Traveler" program was launched last summer, and it now operates at six airports, including Reagan National Airport. The participants are a few thousand frequent fliers hand-picked by airlines. The exception is at Orlando International Airport, where the agency is taking all volunteers through a unique public-private partnership program.
TSA spokeswoman Yolanda Clark said the agency has decided to let the contracts with several companies that operate the test program expire this week. She said the agency will review the program, but several government and industry officials said many top officials at the agency do not want to expand the program as currently designed.
"We are concluding the pilot program and we are going to review the results to determine how Registered Traveler would fit as a link in the security chain," Clark said. "The phase we move into now is an opportunity to review all of that data" from the tests.
Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Michael P. Jackson has not been a big supporter of the idea, even when he served as deputy secretary of the Department of Transportation, which first considered the program after the terrorist attacks in 2001. The concept of Registered Traveler has been popular with members of Congress, who fly frequently and who have been impatient with the agency's reluctance to expand the program.
At National Airport, American Airlines invited 2,000 frequent fliers to enroll in the program. Participants were required to provide their address, date of birth, e-mail address and phone numbers to the agency, and have their irises and index fingers digitally scanned. When the registered travelers show up at National Airport, they proceed to a kiosk located near the front of the security checkpoint that verifies their identity by matching their irises or fingerprints. Once their identity has been confirmed, the travelers can go to the front of the security line.
Several industry leaders say Registered Traveler never got off the ground because it was only helpful to users at the airport where they registered. They say the key to expanding the program is to ensure that the registration can work at every participating airport.
"It's important to focus on what the next steps are going to be and to continue to build off successes we have in the pilot program," said Carter Morris, who represents airports, including National and Dulles International, that want to expand the program. "The fact we have 50 airports committed to work together to make the program a reality in and of itself is a huge endorsement of the program."