US to let low-risk travellers skip some security checks

By danwarne, October 10 2011
US to let low-risk travellers skip some security checks

Four US airports have begun trials of a streamlined security system which lets 'trusted travellers' zip through their own lane without removing their belt, shoes and jacket, or unpacking their laptop and toiletries from carry-on cabin baggage.

The "TSA Pre ?" (as in 'Pre-Check') program is running in  Qantas' new US hub of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, as well as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County and Miami International.

According to the US Transport Security Administration, "TSA Pre ? allows us to use volunteered information to make risk assessments before the passenger gets to the airport, and enables our officers to focus more attention on those passengers we know the least about."

"We have this low-risk group, then you have a high-risk group, then most people in the middle are an unknown risk," Robert Ball, the TSA's federal security director for Detroit told The Detroit Free Press. "The idea is to eventually move more people from unknown to low risk."

The pilot program is initially only open to to a select group of Delta and American Airlines frequent flyers who must be American citizens, as well as some members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Trusted Traveler program (which is also only open to US residents).

"If the pilot proves successful, we will explore expanding the program to additional travelers, airports and airlines" says TSA Chief John Pistole.

That said, the agency isn't making any promises that volunteering information about yourself will necessarily give you a smoother ride through security.

"Nothing will ever guarantee that an eligible passenger receives expedited security screening. We have built random and unpredictable factors throughout the aviation security system to guard against terrorists gaming the system and this program is no exception," the TSA says.

What's not yet clear is exactly what information the US government wants to collect about travellers. People who have been invited into the early trial do not need to provide any data about themselves because the TSA has already determined that they are low-risk travellers based on existing information.

We can only hope that the trials are a success and that other international government agencies, including Australia's Customs and Border Protection Service, will follow suite with tests of streamlined security for pre-approved business travellers and other frequent flyers.

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