Logan to Start Express Security Program This Summer

Jan. 20--Logan International Airport will implement a "registered traveler" program this summer that allows passengers who pass a screening check and pay a yearly fee to use special express security lines.

Passengers will also have to submit fingerprints and eye scans to qualify. Other key details of the program, including how much it will cost and when it will start, are still being worked out.

To boost interest in the program, participants will probably get benefits such as discounts on parking and dining at the airport, according to Thomas J. Kinton Jr., director of aviation for the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan.

Logan was one of five US airports that conducted small-scale registered-traveler program trials that ended in September. At Logan, the program involved about 1,800 American Airlines frequent fliers.

Registered travelers show their boarding passes and get their identities confirmed by a machine that checks either their iris or index finger tip. They still have to go through metal detectors and put their bags through X-ray scanners but often save several minutes by avoiding security lines used by the general public that can get crowded. And unless registered travelers set off a metal detector or have a banned item in their carry-on luggage, they are also exempted from so-called secondary screening patdowns by airport security officials that involve a randomly selected percentage of all travelers in general security lines.

Currently, among US airports only Orlando International Airport offers a special registered traveler check-in, which has enrolled 13,000 people since June who pay $80 a year. Airports in Indianapolis, Sacramento, Calif., and San Jose also plan to offer the programs this summer.

People who get registered traveler cards from Massport will be able to use them at all US airports that decide to offer the service, Kinton said yesterday.

"The fact that Logan is going to be moving forward is terrific and a very positive move for travelers," said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst with Forrester Research. "There are just so many uncertainties now with airport security. Anything that can be done to reduce the hassle factor is a boost for the airline industry."

Harteveldt added that assuming Logan's enrollment fee for the program is comparable to fees charged by other airports, many business executives will be able to justify having their companies pay for it because it can save them, over the course of a year, many hours and enhance their productivity.

The US Transportation Security Administration sets security standards for who can sign up for registered traveler programs and how they must be operated to keep would-be hijackers or terrorists from infiltrating them. Today, the TSA is set to announce new details about what kinds of time-saving security procedures it will allow airports to offer registered travelers, which could include not requiring participants to remove their shoes, belts, and jackets or coats when walking through a security checkpoint.

TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis said the program is intended to increase overall airport security by separating out known travelers the government determines are not a security threat. This allows screeners to focus on a smaller pool of people to ferret out potential terrorists.

"We often say what we are doing as an agency is looking for a needle in a haystack, and this program in effect makes the haystack smaller," said Davis.

In recent months, the TSA has begun reevaluating some of the security changes made after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Last month it eased restrictions on carry-on items, letting airline passengers bring on board with blades up to four inches long and tools up to seven inches long. More than 7 million items like those have been seized in the last four years, and the TSA argues that its time is better spent screening for concealed explosives or other threats.

Massport's Kinton said he expects the registered traveler program to prove popular at Logan but could not provide estimates of how many people might sign up. Logan will probably charge more than other airports to offer its passengers the registered traveler program, Kinton said. The agency is struggling with revenue shortfalls and soaring energy costs this year, and at the same time Massport wants to add more benefits to the program.

"We're going to think long and hard about what other kinds of amenities we might hang off it that customers may be interested in," Kinton said.

Those might include perks such as discounts on parking or airport coffee shops, restaurants, and bars. Logan plans to begin offering premium-priced reserved parking at its central garage this summer, too, and that "absolutely could fit into" a package of benefits for registered travelers, Kinton said.