Logan International Airport Expands Quicker Screenings

May 13--A new security center at Logan International Airport center will allow airline passengers seeking expedited screening privileges to complete enrollment for a Transportation Security Administration program that's accepted 220,000-plus travelers nationwide so far.

TSA Administrator John Pistole will formally launch the TSA PreCheck enrollment center at Logan's Terminal A today -- the 21st airport location among 250 centers opened nationwide since December, including five others in Massachusetts.

The program, which is open to U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who pass background checks, lets passengers keep on their shoes, light outerwear and belt, and keep their laptops in their cases and 3-1-1-compliant liquids/gels bag in their carry-ons, while going through designated screening lanes.

TSA PreCheck started at Logan two years ago for Delta Air Lines customers. Airlines now participating at Logan's four expedited checkpoints also include American Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Air Canada and Alaska Airlines.

"From a passenger perspective, it's a huge convenience," TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said. "From a TSA perspective, it's an enhancement of security because people who have enrolled ... have voluntarily provided us with more personal information about themselves. It allows TSA to focus on greater attention on the passengers we know less about."

The TSA sometimes makes "on-the-spot, risk-based assessments" that allow it to randomly shift unenrolled travelers into the PreCheck lanes, Farbstein said. "This maximizes our ability to get passengers through the checkpoint as efficiently as possible," she said. "Even if more people are in the TSA PreCheck lane, that lane moves much quicker because there are fewer items to remove."

But some aviation experts, even while praising the program, say there are glitches, including that practice. "The problem we're seeing is TSA seems to be giving what amounts to free samples to people who don't understand the program and who get stuck in the line randomly and don't follow the protocols," said aviation analyst Robert Mann, of R.W. Mann & Co. "So it holds that ... line up, which defeats the purpose."

The program's cost to passengers -- $85 for five years -- also makes it beneficial only to frequent air travelers who "based on the TSA's own risk assessments, are not likely to be deemed a high risk or high-security passenger that needs further checks once checked in," said analyst Saj Ahmad of StrategicAero Research.com. "Some might argue that the system boasts of exclusivity to some while marginalizing the majority," he said.

Only two in 10 U.S. adult air travelers said they would pay $85 or more for expedited screening, according to a recent Harris Poll.

And while 79 percent say separating pre-screened passengers into a different line would make the screening process quicker for everyone, 68 percent were concerned the PreCheck program would make TSA miss potential threats.

Copyright 2014 - Boston Herald

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