A long-delayed program aimed at speeding trusted travelers through airport security took a small but dramatic step Tuesday when it opened at one terminal in New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The opening marks the official launch of Registered Traveler beyond Orlando International Airport, which since July 2005 has run the only airport-sponsored program to put airline travelers at the front of security lines if they pay about $100 a year and pass a background check.
Many airlines give first-class and other preferred passengers their own line leading to security checkpoints. Registered Traveler opens such privileges to a potentially much wider market.
"People have been clamoring for this for years," said Caleb Tiller of the National Business Travel Association. "It's available to anybody. Airline programs are really limited to passengers carrying a certain class of ticket or a certain mileage status."
Indianapolis International Airport plans to start a Registered Traveler program Thursday. Airports in San Jose, Calif., and Cincinnati are scheduled to join next week, said Steven Brill, whose Manhattan company, Verified Identity Pass, will manage the programs.
Other airports are likely to follow when they see Registered Traveler grow, Brill said. "The next five airports are infinitely easier than the first five, and the five after that are a cakewalk," he said.
Some travelers are skeptical. "I'm very doubtful it will expand," Patrick Richmond said Tuesday as he bypassed Orlando's regular 20-minute security line for the Registered Traveler "line" that had two other passengers. "The cost seems enormous."
Orlando has four $200,000 machines -- two at each checkpoint -- that read fingerprint-embedded ID cards to verify the identities of people in the program and that check their shoes for weapons. The ShoeScanner machines aim to spare passengers from having to take off their shoes when going through security.
Indianapolis and San Jose will have six each, and there will be two at Cincinnati and at Kennedy's Terminal 7, which British Airways owns.
"That makes no difference to me whatsoever," Richmond said of the four airports joining Orlando. "I never go to any of those cities."
More than 30,000 people have joined Registered Traveler at Orlando, which does not have airline-run security lines for elite travelers. About 5,000 total have signed up at the other four airports since enrollment began last fall.
Some Orlando passengers said Tuesday that being able to keep their shoes on while passing through security was a step forward. "It's a little bit less of a hassle," said Derek Simonds of Deland, Fla. "But to have Registered Traveler at other airports would be tremendous."
Last year, 22 airports told the Transportation Security Administration they were interested in starting Registered Traveler, including Los Angeles, Chicago O'Hare, Denver, Miami and Washington's Dulles and Reagan National.
Miami security director Lauren Stover said the ShoeScanner could make Registered Traveler more appealing.
She said the airport is still weighing the "customer-service value and the impact it will have on (security) wait times for passengers throughout the airport."
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