Passengers wait to go through security screening at LAX. An expedited screening… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
Tired of waiting in line and taking off your shoes, coat and belt at airport security checkpoints?
If so, and if you are willing to answer some pre-flight questions, a new federal program to be added at Los Angeles International Airport next year will allow you to move more conveniently through the screening process.
The program is called PreCheck, and John S. Pistole, who heads the Transportation Security Administration, announced at a congressional hearing Wednesday that it will be expanded to McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas in December and LAX and Minneapolis-St. Paul in early 2012.
At LAX, the program will initially be limited to American Airlines passengers, but it is expected to be expanded to other carriers serving U.S. cities.
PreCheck allows U.S. citizens and members of the federal "Trusted Traveler" program to be questioned by federal officials before domestic flights. If qualified, passengers become eligible for expedited screening at the terminal, TSA officials said.
"Because we know more about these passengers," Pistole said, "TSA PreCheck travelers are able to divest themselves of fewer items, which may include leaving on their shoes, jackets and light outerwear as they proceed through security screening."
Pistole, who addressed the Senate Commerce Committee, said PreCheck will allow the TSA to devote more resources to checking high-risk passengers and travelers the agency knows little about.
He said, however, that PreCheck travelers would still be subject to TSA's random searches and unpredictable security measures throughout the screening process.
At LAX on Wednesday, Monica Casperino said she has traveled from her home in Maui to Cancun, Virginia and Los Angeles this year with her two young children and all their gear. She knows the inconvenience of removing her kids' shoes at checkpoints and pushing their stroller through airport body scanners.
Expedited screening, Casperino said, would "give us more time and less stress."
In October, TSA began testing PreCheck at four airports across the country: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County, Dallas/Fort Worth International and Miami International. American and Delta Airlines are participating.
TSA officials said about 45,000 passengers have gone through the process, and the initial experience has been favorable.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, (D-Calif.), a member of the Commerce Committee, welcomed the expansion of the program, saying it could help boost tourism in California at a time of high unemployment.
"In California," Boxer said, "the travel and tourism industry employs more than 800,000 Californians. A 2010 survey found that more than 60% of travelers would take two to three more trips a year if the hassles and screening could be reduced without compromising security."
Los Angeles Times staff writer Ricardo Lopez contributed to this report.