The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) just wrapped up a pilot program that allows travelers to enroll on the spot in the TSA PreCheck expedited airport security clearing program, without having to visit an enrollment center. If deemed successful, the program may be expanded to other airports across the country.
The pilot program ran for several weeks in September at Baltimore Washington International-Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), where TSA agents used special digital tablets that can capture and save fingerprints and verify a person’s identity. Agents were set up at one of the airport’s checkpoints immediately after travelers passed through the security screening.
PreCheck membership costs $85 for five years and allows vetted travelers to use a designated security line, which tends to move faster than the normal lines. They can also leave on their shoes, coats and belts and leave laptops and eligible liquids in their bags.
The TSA is hoping that tablet-enabled enrollment will increase the number of travelers who might not have otherwise enrolled in PreCheck. On-the-spot enrollment removes a significant barrier to the sign-up process. Typically, enrolling in TSA PreCheck requires making an appointment for an in-person interview and fingerprinting at an enrollment center.
During the pilot program at BWI, the TSA also studied whether passengers are more likely to enroll when they are flying domestically or internationally; if there are certain times of the day that travelers are more or less likely to enroll; if the wait time of a given checkpoint is a factor in enrollment; and if there are ways to increase the efficiency of enrolling in the program, according to a press release.
Enrollment in PreCheck began in 2013 and peaked in 2016 at 2.2 million new enrollees, falling far short of TSA’s projected five million new members per year. There are currently more than 8.5 million PreCheck members, which is only about a third of the TSA’s previous projection of 25 million enrollments.
The move comes after a series of incidents that have resulted in public outcry over the potential lack of safety measures that such companies offer.
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