TSA testing new screening initiative at Hartsfield

Passenger Brad Childress, 59, was directed to lane No. 1 of the South Terminal Checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

He was directed by a Transportation Security Officer to keep his shoes, belt and light outerwear on. Delighted, Childress followed instructions and continued on his way. “I love it,” he said. “It is awesome.”

Childress said the current security measures performed by the Transportation Security Administration at checkpoint areas never made him feel safer. This new procedure is more efficient, he said.

On Tuesday, TSA announced the start of its evaluation of its “PreCheck” pilot program, a voluntary passenger pre-screening initiative, at Atlanta’s airport.

The new PreCheck initiative applies a key component of TSA’s intelligence-driven, risk-based approach to security, said Christopher McLaughlin, of TSA’s Office of Security Operations. The initiative relies on pre-screening passengers, who volunteer their personal information before flying, in order to quicken their travel experience.

Only a selected group of travelers involved in the frequent flyer programs of Delta Air Lines and American Airlines will participate during the 60-day trial period at four airports nationwide, including Hartsfield-Jackson, said McLaughlin.

Members of Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler programs, such as Global Entry, Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection, and NEXUS are also eligible participants.

Jon Allen, a spokesman for TSA, explained that the pilot program is able to operate, thanks to partnerships with Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Passengers, who participate in the pilot program, fly domestically, through Delta Air Lines from either Hartsfield-Jackson or Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Detroit, Mich.; American Airlines, from Dallas/Fort Worth International in Dallas, Texas or Miami International Airport in Miami, Fla., according to Allen.

If the pilot is successful, TSA plans to expand the program to more airlines and other airports that include the Global Entry program, added McLaughlin.

He said the evaluation takes place at the South Terminal Checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson, and participants are directed to lane No. 1 for expedited screening.

He said several thousand passengers a day will participate in the pilot program at the four airport locations, compared to the 1.7 million passengers who go through regular security checkpoints per day.

“As TSA moves further away from a one-size-fits-all approach, our ultimate goal is to provide the most-effective security in the most-efficient way possible,” added TSA Administrator John Pistole.

Pistole said the initiative will help the agency focus its resources on higher-risk passengers, by learning more about those travelers that provide information prior to their flight, and combining these facts with additional layers of security.

“This new screening system holds great potential to strengthen security, while significantly enhancing the travel experience, whenever possible, for passengers,” he said.

Spokesman Allen added that TSA is also in the process of evaluating several other new screening initiatives, including positive identification verification for airline pilots, and expanded behavior-detection methods.

Officials said TSA has recently changed screening procedures for children, ages 12 and under. “These changes in procedures allow passengers 12 and under to leave their shoes on during security screening,” the officials said. “Results of the pilots have been favorable, and have reduced –– though not eliminated –– pat-downs of children that would otherwise have been conducted to resolve alarms, while also ensuring effective security measures.”