Post 9/11 Flying
Frequent travelers may find an easier route through airports.
Steve Levy spends three weeks each month traveling for business. Much of that time, he laments, is spent standing in security lines or waiting in airport terminals after he arrives the prescribed two hours before departure.
"Security tacks on two hours to either side of your trip," says Levy, vice president of sales with RL-Solutions Inc., a Hollywood-based software company. "Every time I go to the airport, it's a hassle."
Any program promising to shorten Levy's lines or cut his wait will make his life easier. His chance may be coming. The Transportation Security Administration announced in June the Registered Traveler Pilot Program. Frequent fliers in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Los Angeles, Houston, Boston and Washington, D.C., provide the TSA with their name, address, phone number and date of birth along with finger and iris imprints. After the travelers pass a security assessment, a biometric scan at the security checkpoint will allow them to avoid secondary screenings.
During the pilot program, participants still must queue for primary electronic screening and baggage X-ray. Once implemented, the program likely will have lines dedicated to participants, says Lauren Stover, TSA's Miami-based eastern field director for public affairs.
Unlike the much-assailed Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (or CAPPS II), which alarmed privacy-rights advocates by threatening to profile every U.S. airline passenger, information gathered under the Registered Traveler program is voluntary.
Still undetermined is when any Florida airports will be included in the program and the cost of participating for passengers, Stover says. Tampa, Miami and Southwest Florida international airports have been selected for a TSA Access Control Pilot Program. The effort will study employee access-control systems, including biometric, radio frequency identification and video surveillance technology.
Levy hopes the program will fly into Florida after the three-month test is completed. Whether it's being plucked from security lines for secondary screenings or wishing he'd driven to Orlando or Tampa to avoid the hassle, Levy's ready to sign up. He'd gladly exchange any required information to avoid added screenings and enjoy a SunPass-like express line that would speed him past the tourists and cruise passengers who often clog the security queues.
"I have nothing to hide," he says. "I'd give up everything if it will make my life more convenient."
FEAR OF FLYING
Even without the TSA's Registered Traveler program, there are ways to help you breeze through airport security lines. Try these tips:
Print your pass. Avoid growing e-ticket kiosk lines by printing boarding passes on your office PC and heading straight for the security checkpoint.
Watch the clock. Passengers still stuck in security but whose departure is imminent often will get priority to the front of the security line. "I take advantage of that all the time," says frequent business flier Steve Levy.
Watch the flags. Avoid buying tickets with cash or making one-way reservations, which flag government security systems.
Lighten up before you line up. Drop your keys, watch, belt, change, cell phone and PDA into the briefcase, purse or laptop bag before approaching the metal detector. "Don't miss the scan on the first try," says Gilbert Fiorentino, CEO with TigerDirect.com in Miami.