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Registered-traveler program reduces airport wait lines

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Starting Wednesday morning, TRAVELERS with a special card will get their own swift line at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The registered-traveler program is a privately-run organization in which a $128 annual fee, a "biometrics" card, and a "threat assessment" check are exchanged for an expedited queue to security.

Atlanta will be the 20th airport in the country to sign on with Clear, the provider of the service. There are already about 7,000 paying members in the area waiting to use it.

"We've had a million and a half people go through it already," said Cindy Rosenthal, spokeswoman for the 3-year-old company. "We expect Atlanta to be our busiest airport, just because it's the busiest airport in the world."

Clear boasts more than 200,000 registered travelers. Its members provide the company with "biometrics" -- fingerprints and iris-scans -- and two pieces of government-issued identification and proof of citizenship. All that is turned into a card, and then 20 United States airports allow a members-only line.

Airport officials see the program as a way of increasing "through-put," an ongoing effort at a place like Hartsfield-Jackson, because of its status as the busiest airport in the world.

When implementation talks began back in June, Airport Spokesman Herschel Grangent said the arrangement with Clear was part of the pursuit of decreased wait times.

"We're constantly trying to find ways to increase our through-put, the number of people who pass through the airport in an hour," he said. "We're trying to keep the wait time down to 20 minutes. We're going to have to come up with creative, innovative ways to do that."

The line will be on the south side of the check-in, feeding into the Transportation Security Administration's screening and security checkpoint.

TSA Spokesman Jon Allen said the Clear-registered TRAVELERS aren't treated any differently in security, but the administration does value the private program.

"They go through the screening like everybody else. The advantage is in the line, if there's any sort of queuing at all," Allen said.

At other airports, when the registered TRAVELERS program was in its pilot stages, the TSA took a more active role. Allen said the administration supports anything making airport security less stressful and more efficient.

" For us at TSA," Allen said, "anything we can do to calm down the checkpoint, to calm everything down, serves to increase security. Anybody with bad intent, or negative intent, stands out that much more for the TSA agents doing behavioral observation. If we can take that stress and reduce it, travelers have a better experience, and we're all safer."