What began as a pilot program by the Transportation Security Administration in 2004 is now a full-fledged program operated in partnership with airports, airlines, and private industry, while TSA plays more of a facilitating or advisory role. The Registered Traveler program (RT), designed to allow participants to avoid additional (they still have to undergo standard TSA security) screening at the airport by submitting to a background check and biometric identification, is now operational at a handful of airports across the United States and is expected to spread in the coming months.
The Registered Traveler program grew out of the demands of frequent travelers to avoid some of the hassles of additional screening at airports due to increased security measures following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
In 2004, the TSA operated a pilot program with Unisys Corporation at Minneapolis, Houston, and Los Angeles airports. Since then, other pilot programs have been conducted at Orlando International and Boston Logan International airports, among others.
Today, TSA and private industry have partnered to provide the RT program. According to TSA spokesperson Amy Kudwa, TSA provides oversight and guidance for the program, but it is the responsiblity of the airports, airlines, and private industry to provide the necessary systems and processes to support, manage, and operate the program.
TSA ensures that RT vendors wanting to provide RT services to airports, airlines, and the public have met its program requirements, while airports and airlines may partner for RT program operations only with TSA-approved RT vendors. Currently, there are three TSA-approved vendors: New York City-based Verified Identify Pass; Blue Bell, Pa-based Unisys Corp.; and Rochester, NY-based Verant Identification Systems Inc. Other vendors could receive TSA-approval in the future.
There are three ‘guiding principles’ under which the RT model has been authorizd:
- RT is a private sector program facilitated by the government but not subsidized by it.
- RT will not disadvantage non-participants.
- RT will not compromise the security of aviation transportation.
TSA Business Model
According to TSA, its business model for the RT program reflects the following business conditions:
- For purposes of managing airport screening protocols and consistent with current operations, TSA will have an RT business relationship with airports and air carriers.
- Passenger line management, prior to passengers arriving at TSA-staffed checkpoint screening positions, will continue to be the responsibility of the airports and/or airlines.
- TSA will not seek cost reimbursement from airports for physical screening until such time that any proposed RT processes change TSA duties and responsibilities to the point of increasing TSA’s costs.
- The RT program is comprised of two fees: one for private industry and one for TSA. TSA’s portion ($28) will cover the cost of completing a security threat assessment for each applicant and program management expenses.
- RT participants will be subject to all existing security procedures until airports propose lane reconfigurations with additional TSA-approved security measures. Such measures would be funded, installed, and maintained by airport or airline partners participating in the RT program.
- Anticipated RT benefits to the government are principally attracting more investment to security innovation and providing a pool of participants who have voluntarily completed background screening reviews to assist TSA in threat-reduction analysis.
The RT industry has come together to establish standards for the administration of the program with the adoption of the Registered Traveler Interoperability Consortium’s Tech-nical Interoperability Specification. This allows a person who is a registered traveler at one airport to use his or her credentials at any other airport with the program, without facing additional fees.
Some airports are now supplying booties for travelers to wear over their feet while their shoes make their way on the belt for screening, but at least one is taking it a step further
Second bidder for airport's registered traveler program also touts price cuts
The U.S. government approved new technology that will automatically scan shoes and boots for bombs.
In a request for information posted Dec. 15, TSA said it is seeking ideas on a business model for Registered Traveler.