Logan Considers Easing Way for Frequent Fliers

Sep. 27--Logan International Airport is taking a serious look at becoming the second airport in the country to create its own "registered traveler" system that would allow frequent fliers to bypass long security lines.

An existing program -- involving more than 1,800 American Airlines frequent fliers -- will end on Friday. Over the past year, Logan has been one of five airports where the Transportation Security Administration has tested a "registered traveler" program that allows passengers to use a special security lane that can often be faster because there are fewer people using it.

In the pilot, the TSA invited members of American Airlines' AAdvantage frequent-flier plan who regularly fly at least once a week to participate by supplying personal data such as a Social Security number, their last five years' home addresses, and scans of their irises and index finger tips.

The TSA runs a criminal background check, and travelers it approves for registered status use the special security lane. Registered travelers show their boarding passes and get their identities confirmed by a machine that checks either their iris or index finger. They still have to go through metal detectors and put their bags through X-ray scanners but often save several minutes by avoiding security lanes used by the general public. Registered travelers are also routinely exempted from the so-called secondary screening pat-downs TSA agents administer to every 20th air passenger.

Phil Orlandella, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan, said yesterday that officials are studying whether such a program can be extended permanently by Massport and extended to other airlines. Participants in the American Airlines registered traveler program have told Massport they will miss the convenience and time savings offered.

"The feedback from them was very positive," Orlandella said. American is the biggest airline at Logan by passenger volume, handling over 108,000 passengers a week last year, according to Massport data.

Orlandella said Massport officials have planned several meetings this week "to discuss the issue at length and make a decision in the near future as to whether the system will continue here." Massport would need TSA approval for a registry program. Orlandella said Massport hopes to act soon but could not say when its own program could begin. If Massport runs its own program, officials are considering expanding it beyond American to include the other nine domestic and two international checkpoints.

Orlando International Airport began its program in June and has signed up more than 7,000 participants, who each pay $80 a year. The Orlando system is operated by defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. and Verified Identity Pass Inc., a two-year-old New York company.

George N. Naccara, the TSA federal security director at Logan, said American Airlines' Terminal B registered traveler program was always intended to be a pilot program and will not be extended, even temporarily. But in coming months, Naccara added, TSA officials will review data from Logan and four other airports and then decide whether to resume the registered traveler programs at those airports and others.

The four other airport terminals where TSA has tested registered traveler systems are Continental Airlines at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, United Airlines at Los Angeles International, Northwest Airlines at Minneapolis-St. Paul International, and American at Reagan National in Washington, D.C.The pilot program will also end on Friday at those airports, said TSA spokeswoman Yolanda Clark.

Frequent fliers were part of the pilot program because they're seen as the group most likely to be willing to participate and by definition they are well known to the airlines.

Bill Connors, executive director of the National Business Travel Association in Washington and a participant in the American program at Reagan National, said frequent fliers have raved about the time savings. "It offers you a little more predictability on just what time you need to be at the airport," Connors said.

"As long as it's voluntary, it's got federal standards, and the privacy issues around your personal information are addressed, we're big proponents," Connors added. "I've got a lot of people who would give a DNA sample and blood to get through the airport faster."

Neil Bergquist, a Brighton pharmaceutical industry consultant who flew more than 50,000 miles on American last year, already holds a platinum AAdvantage card that gets him into a special security line but said he would welcome a Massport-run registered traveler service for other airlines.

The concept "doesn't represent, to me, any additional violation of privacy beyond what already happens when you travel," said Bergquist. "Plus, I have nothing to hide."

Establishing a Massport-run system could be complex, however. Representing the airport that originated two hijacked jets that crashed into New York's World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Logan officials are cautious about implementing security systems that have not been widely adopted elsewhere. Logan has spent more than $200 million on improved security since then and remains one of the only US airports that still has a morning security-update meeting seven days a week where airport, airlines, TSA, State Police, and other officials share information about terrorist threats.

While Massport officials are eager to see if there is a way to maintain and expand a registered traveler program, Orlandella said Massport officials "need to see what it entails. There are definitely security issues."

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