Ten of the USA's busiest airports have asked the federal government if they can start Registered Traveler programs that would give pre-screened passengers a shortcut through security lines.
Those programs could begin by the end of the year, launching a much-delayed effort to expedite security for travelers who pass background checks.
Atlanta, Chicago O'Hare and Los Angeles airports -- the nation's three busiest -- have asked the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to let them run voluntary Registered Traveler programs, along with 19 other airports.
The TSA released a list of interested airports for the first time after a Freedom of Information Act request by USA TODAY. The agency must approve airports and companies that would enroll passengers, provide fingerprint-embedded ID cards and usher registered travelers through security.
Carter Morris, a vice president at the American Association of Airport Executives, said programs could start by the end of the year and expand quickly. "It will be a strong start," Morris said.
Registered Traveler has faced repeated delays since Congress suggested it shortly after the 9/11 attacks. A recent TSA proposal that would have forced participants to pay about $200 a year prompted an uproar. The annual fee is now likely to be about $100.
People in Registered Traveler would go through reserved security lanes that may waive procedures such as removing shoes and coats. Airports and travel groups say the program must operate at a significant number of places to attract millions of passengers nationwide.
Steven Brill, CEO of a New York company that would run Registered Traveler programs, said 10 large airports would provide a "critical mass to ensure this program launches and flourishes."
However, some airports that have applied have not decided whether to start the Registered Traveler program, including Baltimore and Washington's Dulles and Reagan.
A dozen small to midsize airports that have applied to start Registered Traveler, including Albany, N.Y., and Huntsville, Ala., "are looking at a way to differentiate themselves and attract business travelers," said Larry Zmuda, a partner at Unisys, a Pennsylvania company that would run the program.
Airports that have applied to operate Registered Traveler programs:
San Jose, Calif.
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