IN THE SECURITY-CONSCIOUS 21st-century world, airline passengers in Orlando, Fla., will have the opportunity to avoid the long lines that plague security checkpoints in airports across the country.
While at first glance the new program — called the Private Sector Known Traveler Program — appears similar to the Registered Traveler Program that has been initiated at five other U.S. airports, there are substantial differences. The new initiative will be a private-public enterprise, and passengers will have to pay to participate.
Under the program, passengers willing to pay $79.95 a year (and who pass a government screening) will receive a card that allows them to pass through an Orlando International Airport express security line. The program is operated by New York-based Verified Identity Pass Inc., in partnership with Lockheed-Martin, and is the first time that a private company has become involved in efforts to speed up security lines.
The Transportation Security Administration has a similar program in place in Boston, Minneapolis, Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. It is limited to passengers on certain airlines who are willing to undergo background checks, including fingerprinting and iris scanning (the same checks Verified's registered travelers will have). The government program has been capped at 10,000 participants, and there are no announced plans to expand the number of participants or the number of airports.
During a House Homeland Security subcommittee meeting June 9, several congressmen expressed dissatisfaction with the way TSA's Registered Traveler Program has been implemented, questioning whether the program has increased airport security or reduced inconvenience for registered travelers.
In his testimony before the subcommittee, Bill Connors, executive director of the National Business Travel Association, contradicted that view, saying that “from the perspective of someone who hears from the business travel community daily,” the Registered Traveler program is off to a “good beginning.”
Connors said surveys show that up to 50 percent of business travelers believe that the hassle factor at American airports is hurting American business. “It is therefore no surprise that business travelers and corporate travel managers are strong supporters of programs like Registered Traveler,” he said. He went on to call for a rollout of the program nationally, and said the Orlando private-public program will “offer the first large-scale test of the registered traveler concept,” which, if successful, should also be extended.
The Orlando program, which began enrolling participants June 21, could see up to 30,000 participants initially. In its proposal to Orlando officials, Verified said it plans to implement similar programs at other airports in the United States and expects to have 3.3 million people enrolled in the program within six years, with the price for enrollment eventually reaching $100 annually.
“By allowing fast-lane access through standard security procedures, travelers enrolled in the program will be able to enjoy specialized services to enhance airport security and the overall travel experience,” said C.W. Jennings, executive director of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, in announcing the agreement with Verified. “This is a model program that if successful here, could be adopted across the country.”