Frequent fliers in the Washington area could soon get a new perk at Reagan National and Dulles International airports.
The airports have joined a group that seeks to expand the federal government's Registered Traveler program, which speeds passengers to the front of the security checkpoint lines in exchange for divulging personal information and passing background checks.
So far, the program is available by invitation only at six airports, most of which have only one airline participating.
Carter Morris, senior vice president at the American Association of Airport Executives, said many airports and airlines are tired of waiting for the Transportation Security Administration to expand the program, so they are trying to do it themselves. "There has been no path forward. People say, 'That's great, but when do I get to sign up?' " he said. "The goal is to get this going now and move it at the speed the public wants it."
The group of airports, including Dulles and National, has formed the Registered Traveler Interoperability Consortium to develop standards that would allow each airport to sign up travelers and give passengers the same security privileges at different locations. Now participants can skip to the front of security lines and are exempt from secondary screening that includes pat-downs. Under the group's plan, each airport might be able to offer its own perks, such as allowing passengers to earn additional frequent-flier miles or exempting them from having to take off their shoes or remove laptops from cases.
To become a member, passengers would need to provide personal information, such as dates of birth, e-mail addresses, home addresses and phone numbers, and have their fingerprints and irises digitally scanned. Airports would then submit the information to the Transportation Security Administration. If travelers pass background checks, they would receive Registered Traveler cards containing data chips with their information.
National Airport already is a part of the program for American Airlines passengers, but spokeswoman Tara Hamilton said it makes sense to broaden it. San Francisco, Columbus, Phoenix, Denver and Minneapolis airports are in the new group, and many others are expected to join.
"We think it's important to have a consistent Registered Traveler program," Hamilton said. "Down the road, the benefit to our travelers is that more people, especially frequent fliers, would have a system that would reduce at least a couple of steps in the process that you go through in terms of security screening."
Hamilton said it was too early to tell when the program would expand at Dulles and National airports. "This is in the very early stage," she said.
The TSA has supported a Registered Traveler program for about two years, but it has had difficulty getting it off the ground. The agency had trouble picking a biometric identifier, such as a handprint or fingerprint or iris scan, and it never moved far beyond the test phase. The agency has not endorsed the airports' program but said that it would help move the system forward.
The "desire to get organized as an industry is a good sign and probably helpful as we consider how to roll out Registered Traveler," said Justin Oberman, an assistant administrator at the TSA. "We've always thought if we did expand the program, it would be national in scope. This is helpful that big, innovative airports are participating."