EU Weighs Voluntary Plan to Speed Check-Ins

The region's security and transportation officials say they are scrutinizing a voluntary passenger registration program intended to streamline security checks for frequent fliers.


As stepped-up airport security measures in Britain continue to generate long lines at departure terminals across Europe, the region's security and transportation officials say they are scrutinizing a voluntary passenger registration program intended to streamline security checks for frequent fliers.

The idea, modeled on the experimental Registered Traveler program in the United States and on a similar program at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, is one that has generated intense interest in recent years among airlines and travelers on both sides of the Atlantic. Such a program, at least in theory, would allow airport security and the border police to weed out individuals who are unlikely to pose a threat.

''We want to look into whether this would be helpful and to study what are the upsides and the downsides,'' said Friso Roscam Abbing, a spokesman for Franco Frattini, the European Union justice commissioner.

At a meeting of European interior ministers in London on Wednesday, Frattini proposed the idea of ''positive profiling'' for passengers using biometric technology as a possible solution to speed up border controls.

Roscam Abbing said the idea was appealing because participation was strictly voluntary and reduced the need for other types of ''negative profiling'' established by a person's appearance or behavior. But he stressed that there was still no firm proposal for a Europe-wide program. Still, the scale of the air traffic disruption of the past week ''demonstrates the urgency of addressing this issue at the EU level,'' he said.

Tens of thousands of air passengers in the United States and Europe are already participating in registered-traveler membership programs, which enable passengers, for a fee, to breeze through airport security and immigration controls in exchange for providing certain personal and biometric information, such as a fingerprint or iris scan.

The concept has also been tried with success in Europe. Since 2001, for example, Schiphol Airport has been using iris scans as a way to expedite frequent fliers through its security checkpoints. The program, called Privium, is operated by the airport itself and has nearly 30,000 members, said Miriam Snoerwang, an airport spokeswoman. About 1,200 to 1,500 passengers per day use Privium, which charges members ¤99, or about $125, per year for unlimited fast-track border passage and ¤119 for a premium membership that includes priority airport parking privileges.

A police background check of the applicant is done on the spot, and passport information and iris scan are embedded into a ''smart'' card.



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