TSA plans for expedited security in Anchorage

The Transportation Safety Adminis-tration recently announced an expansion of its PreCheck screening system to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport for eligible travelers.

Lorie Dankers, TSA public affairs manager, said the program should be implemented in Anchorage by early December.

“People who are in PreCheck have a different screening experience. You don’t have to remove your shoes. You can leave your liquids, gels and aerosols still in the smaller quantity in your bag,” she said. “You can leave your laptop in your bag and you can leave a light jacket or sweater on.”

The program is part of the administrations effort to expedite the airport security screening process. It’s also a way for TSA to move towards a risk-based, intelligence-driven security method, according to the agency’s website.

Dankers said PreCheck allows TSA to focus, “on the population that we know less about.”

Though the PreCheck system may look different, Dankers reminded travelers that TSA utilizes many security methods.

“There’s things that are both seen and unseen that we employ, but one of them that’s most visible is the security checkpoint,” Dankers said.

PreCheck launched at four airports in October 2011, she said, and will be expanded to 35 throughout the U.S. by the end of 2012. Dankers said 3.5 million passengers used the program in its first year and TSA hopes to move more than a million passengers a month through PreCheck once it is launched at all 35 airports.

Travelers have two ways to enter the PreCheck program. International travelers already enrolled in one of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Trusted Traveler programs can opt-in by using their PASS ID when booking a flight reservation. According to TSA’s website, frequent flyer passengers who meet eligibility requirements set by the agency will be notified by their respective airlines that they can opt-in to PreCheck.

Alaska Airlines, United, Delta and U.S. Airways are the participating airlines at Anchorage Airport.

“Passengers of those airlines who have been invited by the airlines should take the step now of opting in so that when the PreCheck lane opens (in Anchorage) they’ll be able to take advantage of it, and right ahead of the holidays that’s going to be really helpful for them,” Dankers said.

Once the program launches, a designated PreCheck security lane will be open for participating travelers. Individuals will have their boarding pass scanned for an embedded chip at a TSA checkpoint to determine if they can use the PreCheck lane. Dankers said it’s important to note that not all eligible passengers will always be allowed to use the service.

“There’s a random and unpredictable element built into PreCheck for those who would like to harm the system,” she said. “Obviously we need to have that in place so you don’t know when you come to the checkpoint whether you’re going to have the TSA PreCheck screening experience. You’re eligible, but you’re never guaranteed that experience.”

In the event an eligible traveler is denied PreCheck at the checkpoint will be directed to the traditional security-check lanes, according to TSA.

Travelers not invited by an airline and not currently enrolled in a Trusted Traveler program can apply for a security screening through Border Patrol. However, they will have to go elsewhere for the screening process, which includes an interview, photo and finger printing, Dankers said, as the closest airport with an enrollment center is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

The system is for domestic travelers only; international travelers will have to use the traditional screening lanes regardless of their PreCheck eligibility, she noted.

Travelers she has talked to who have used PreCheck have been pleased with the experience, Dankers said.

“Passengers who are in it like it very much. It speeds their time through security, especially those who are really frequent flyers who are happy to provide this information up front — for them it can be a game-changer both in terms of time and convenience,” she said. “What I hear passengers say is this is exactly like it used to be.”