Jun. 8--Logan International Airport officials have decided not to offer "registered traveler" express security lanes for frequent flyers who submit to government background checks, saying they doubt travelers would see enough benefit to pay $100 a year or more for the special status.
The key issue is that the wait in line at Logan's busiest security checkpoints averages three to four minutes, spokesman Phil Orlandella said yesterday.
"Long waits at the checkpoints are a rare occurrence," he said, "and the question we need to ask is: What benefit are we offering to the consumer?" He added that "should circumstances change in the future, we may reconsider our decision."
Also, the Transportation Security Administration says registered travelers will still be subject to pat-downs by TSA agents and will still have to remove shoes and take laptop computers out of their cases -- unless airports install complex explosive-detecting technology.
Logan officials had considered a registered-traveler program that might cost $150 annually, with discounts on parking and airport restaurants and shops. A small trial program at the American Airlines terminal at Logan, involving 1,800 people, ended last fall.
Orlando International Airport in Florida runs the biggest registered-traveler program in the United States, with over 13,000 participants who pay $80 a year to use express check-in lines. Airports in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and San Jose, Calif., plan to offer registered-traveler services this summer.
But managers of airports in Atlanta, Detroit, Las Vegas, and San Francisco have said they won't do the same, because waiting times aren't excessive and benefits to travelers are scant, because of the TSA policies. The TSA refuses to waive the so-called secondary screening for fear that terrorists with no criminal records or other warning flags could infiltrate registered-traveler plans.
Several travelers interviewed yesterday at Logan said the airport was making the right call.
"Based on the TSA guidelines for the program, I doubt that I would join even if it were offered," said Alan Gold, chief marketing officer for Avotus Corp. , a Burlington and Toronto telecommunications consulting firm. "The hassle is less the wait than the inconvenience of shoe and coat and laptop removal. If that's still there, there's no preferred traveler program."
Carl M. Rubin , a co-owner of the Needham technology firm Monument Data Solutions LLC, said the program may have appealed to him and other frequent flyers because he "could see some people paying $100 for the sole reason that they would not have to wait in line with people who forget to take out their laptops or walk through with cellphones or not take off their coats.
"When you travel a lot, it is annoying to hear TSA workers tell people to do all this, and then right in front of you someone is not listening. Even if you were pulled out for a spot check, it would be worth it so you could move smoothly in line."
If successful, the machine will eliminate the need for air travelers to take off their shoes for security checks.
Advocates of the plan say now more than ever, the time is right for a registered traveler program.
The TSA fears the program, set to start in June, could be infiltrated by "home-grown" terrorists like last summer's London subway and bus suicide bombers.
To boost interest in the program, participants will probably get benefits such as discounts on parking and dining at the airport.