Atlanta The first members of a small group of frequent fliers were being ushered through lower-hassle security lines Tuesday in exchange for sharing more personal information with the government in a trial program at four U.S. airports.
The “PreCheck” program represents a big attempt by President Barack Obama’s administration to move away from a one-size-fits-all security approach and toward a model that tailors passenger checks to what the government knows about them. It is being implemented after a public backlash and protest campaign last year over sometimes invasive pat-downs for travelers who refused to step inside full-body scanners.
The new program requires a basic trade-off. Passengers allow airlines or other government agencies to share their personal information with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration so they can be pre-screened before arriving at the airport. In return, passengers get a chance — not a guarantee — that they can move through faster lines and avoid removing their shoes, belts or light coats while keeping laptop computers and liquids in their travel bags.
If successful, the pilot program could spread beyond a small sliver of travelers and airports in Atlanta, Miami, Detroit and Dallas-Fort Worth.
The system’s opening run in Atlanta earned positive reviews from several of the passengers who used it, but it also illustrated that they won’t be immune to all traditional security procedures. They came to the same security checkpoint as other passengers, but were ushered to a specialized line. Rodney Berry of Atlanta praised the new system even though his bag got searched by hand at the end.
“It seems like it was faster, even though I got stopped,” said the 42-year-old who typically flies at least once a week.
TSA Assistant Administrator Chris McLaughlin said the benefits of the program are twofold.
“This program allows us to focus on individuals that we know a great deal about. And it allows us to apply these expedited processes to those individuals,” he said during a news conference at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. “At the same time, it frees up resources for us to apply to individuals that we know less about and potentially pose a greater risk to aviation.”