Trusted Travelers

If you see a short security line at Reagan National and four other U.S. airports in coming weeks, it's probably not for you -- unless you're one of 10,000 extremely frequent fliers participating in a "Registered Traveler" test.

Four airlines are now contacting select customers and inviting them to join the test by agreeing to consent to a background check and to provide the federal Transportation Security Agency (TSA) with a birth date, phone number, address and a "biometric identifier," such as a fingerprint or iris scan. In exchange, those travelers will be able to avoid the masses and pass through a dedicated security checkpoint during the 90-day tests.

The test begins at National on Aug. 17 and at Boston's Logan International on Aug. 1. American Airlines is in charge of identifying test subjects in these two cities and is currently sending invitations to customers who fly out of those airports at least two times a week.

Northwest customers who fly that airline at least 75,000 miles a year are being recruited for the test in Minneapolis, which begins this month. United is soliciting frequent fliers for a fast lane in Los Angeles, and Continental is doing the same in Houston. Fliers participating in a test in one city won't be able to use the dedicated lines in the other cities because the tests all differ somewhat, said TSA spokesman Darrin Kayser.

If the tests prove the merit of the idea, the program would be expanded within months, as opposed to weeks or years, said Kayser. Background checks are free to the test takers, but if the program is extended to the general public, they'll have to pay an as yet undetermined amount.

cheap thrills

NYC's Island Retreat

After more than 350 years as the exclusive preserve of British Colonial governors, the U.S. Army and finally the Coast Guard, Governors Island, just off the tip of southern Manhattan, is now open to the public.

The 90-minute guided tours of the 172-acre wooded retreat are free, though the seven-minute ferry ride will set you back $5. Included on the leisurely 11/2-mile tour (no climbing involved) are Fort Jay and Castle Williams, whose combined firepower persuaded the British Navy to try its luck farther south in the War of 1812. You'll also see New York's first airstrip (Wilbur flew here) and enough barracks and offices to accommodate what was, until 1997, a small city of 3,000.

The guided tours are offered Tuesdays through Fridays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. through Sept. 3. Ferry tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis only at the South Street Seaport Museum ticket booth on Pier 16, beginning at 8:30 a.m. On Saturdays through September, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., you can use the island as a peaceful, scenic means to escape the madding crowds and stroll, jog, bike or inline-skate its mile-long Esplanade.

Details on tour and ferry tickets: 212-514-8296, www.nps.gov/gois.


The long-awaited $650 million Las Vegas Monorail begins service Thursday. The initial four-mile route runs along the resort corridor, linking nine hotels and casinos and the convention center. Introductory fares start at $3 a ride; multi-day passes are available. Details: www.lvmonorail.com . . . United Airlines's wine will now be chosen by Doug Frost, one of only three people in the world to pass both the Master Sommelier and Master of Wine exams. Frost will also train flight attendants on choosing wines.


Autumn in Paris

Spend six nights in Paris starting at $499 per person double, including air and hotel. What's the Deal?, Page P3.

Reporting: Marshall S. Berdan, Cindy Loose.

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