Registered Traveler Program to Be Tried

Frequent flyers who pass background checks will be eligible for expedited screening at participating airports.


Registered Traveler, the federal program that would permit expedited airport security screening for frequent flyers, will be rolled out at 10 to 20 airports in the next year despite mixed reviews, federal officials said Friday.

Tulsa International Airport, where wait times at security checkpoints are minimal, likely will not be one of the facilities selected for the Registered Traveler program during the next year, local and federal officials said.

"We are reviewing comments from the public, the airports and the airlines, and we have some airports interested in developing Registered Traveler programs," said Andrea McCauley, spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration in Fort Worth.

"Some airports might not see benefits. It all depends on which airports have lines" at security checkpoints, she said.

"We will continue to work with private industry to determine how we're going to work together going forward," McCauley said.

Under the RT program, frequent flyers or business travelers voluntarily submit to TSA personal information, including name, address, phone number and date of birth, along with a fingerprint or an iris scan. Private contractors, working under the supervision of TSA, will conduct an analysis of law enforcement and intelligence data as well as review outstanding warrants.

Once the frequent flyer or business traveler passes the background check, he or she will be able to bypass standard security screening at participating airports for a designated RT lane and expedited screening. The traveler will not be randomly selected for secondary screening, TSA officials say.

"It's probably not as critical for our airport as it is for others," said Jeff Mulder, airports director at TIA and Jones Riverside Airport at Jenks. "We don't have significant issues here with long waiting lines."

According to TSA's Web site, wait times at Tulsa International's security checkpoints Monday mornings, Wednesday afternoons and Friday evenings average three to 10 minutes. Maximum average wait times range from three minutes to 17 minutes.

Alex Eaton, president of World Travel Service in Tulsa, says 75 percent of his clients are corporate travelers. Many of them have expressed interest in expedited security screening.

"We're willing to undergo any amount of scrutiny in order to have faster processing through airports," Eaton said. "A year ago, I had a lot of guys saying that if this is going to be a program, they wanted to be part of it.

"The reality is that people today are going through airports more efficiently and faster than they were a year ago. At Tulsa International Airport, there are no delays. The pressures have been reduced significantly. TSA has brought uniformity to the basic processes and procedures. The process has gotten better."

Some airlines and the Air Transport Association, the industry trade group based in Washington, D.C., are not in favor of the RT program. James C. May, ATA's president and CEO, mailed letters to 150 airport directors this month stating his organization's opposition.

"The reasons for our opposition are straightforward: as currently designed, the program will unnecessarily drain limited TSA resources and detract from the agency's ability to craft more comprehensive programs benefiting all travelers," May wrote. "The RT program will necessitate security checkpoint and procedural modifications, which are likely to decrease overall productivity during the busy summer travel season."

American Airlines spokesman Tim Wagner said the carrier would welcome any program that "increases the perception of customer service" if the cost is borne by the customer rather than the airline.

"We're saying there needs to be some program to expedite the security process for frequent travelers," Wagner said.

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