Trusted Traveler: Big Idea, Small Start

The TSA is trying to re-start its Trusted Traveler Program that eases the passage through airport security. It has two main features that could appeal greatly to frequent travelers:

Instead of going through a perfunctory screening and ID process each time you go through an airport, you submit once to a very intense background check—almost like a secret security clearance—and you also register one or more physical characteristics (retina pattern, maybe) that can't be duplicated.

Once enrolled, you can bypass much (but not all) local security measures, presumably through an expedited line. Details remain to be fixed.

This isn't a new idea. Several years ago, private contractors, with TSA blessings, started similar programs, and they failed to attract a market. It's not clear yet what the differences will be.

The current test is limited: Enrollment will be confined to some American and Delta frequent flyers, plus travelers already registered for the ongoing government approved Global Entry, Nexus, and Sentri programs. And facilities will be available only at Atlanta, Chicago/O'Hare, Dallas-Ft Worth, and Detroit airports.

For most travelers, then, today's announcement is "interesting news" rather than a chance to improve your flying experience. But if it works, maybe you'll have a chance to enroll in a few years.

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