A traveler is patted down by a TSA agent at John Wayne Airport. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)
The Transportation Security Administration reached what seems like a lofty milestone last week when it announced it had screened 1 million passengers through a new accelerated security program at airports across the country.
But TSA acknowledges that the new security program, dubbed PreCheck, has served only a small fraction of the nation’s air travelers.
The TSA screens an estimated 1.8 million passengers a day at 450 commercial airports. That means that in the same time that the PreCheck program screened 1 million passengers since it launched in October, the TSA processed a total of nearly 335 million passengers.
“In the context, 1 million is a very, very small number,” said Chris McLaughlin, assistant administrator for security operations at TSA. He added that the benefits of PreCheck to accelerate the overall system are still too small to calculate.
The PreCheck program operates at only 14 airports and is open to preapproved passengers of three airlines: American, Delta and Alaska. PreCheck lets travelers who volunteer background information to the TSA in advance go through special screening lanes without removing shoes, belt and coats. It cuts screening time up to 50%, the TSA says.
The overall system benefits, the TSA says, because regular screening lines are shorter.
McLaughlin said PreCheck will make a bigger difference in the near future. It is scheduled to expand to a total of 35 of the nation’s biggest airports by the end of 2012. Those airports serve up to 90% of the nation’s travelers, he noted.
“By the end of this calendar year, we will be at a place where PreCheck will be contributing positively to the overall system.”
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