The US security regime has bowed to congressional demands and airport industry pressure to clear “Fast Lane” programmes that let frequent flyers enrol with private screening firms offering dedicated checkpoints to members who have given biometric data.

Registered Traveller, as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) calls the programme formerly dubbed Trusted Traveller, was tested in five airports earlier this year. Although the TSA bureaucracy expressed reservations about private involvement in any aspect of airport screening, the chief of its parent agency, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, insisted on industry involvement.

Kip Hawley, TSA head, told airport executives that he would formally endorse a Registered Traveller plan in January as part of a larger screening overhaul. Hawley said action by congress to let TSA charge fees enabled the go-ahead even as the agency’s screener workforce and budget are limited.

He said a private test at Orlando airport demonstrated that flyers would pay a fee and give biometric samples to private-public partnerships, and that a 35-member airport consortium had assured TSA that common standards would let the biometric cards work nationally.

Hawley told a house panel that TSA would set common biometric standards in mid-January, choose private partners in April and roll out the programme in June. The head of a major private trial, Verified Identity Pass founder Steven Brill, told the panel that registered travellers went through his firm’s Orlando Fast Lanes in less than three minutes, when other flyers need 30 minutes to clear regular checkpoints.

Source: Airline Business