Expedited TSA checks? Tucson airport wants to be a part of that - Inside Tucson Business: Inside Business Travel

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Expedited TSA checks? Tucson airport wants to be a part of that

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Posted: Friday, August 23, 2013 12:00 am

The biggest bane of airline travel these days is the hassle of airport security. This fall the Transportation Security Administration is rolling out an expansion of a program that will allow for expedited passage through airport security checks and officials at Tucson International Airport are hoping it will be among the airports picked for the rollout.

Bonnie Allin, president and CEO of the Tucson Airport Authority, talked of the expansion of the PreCheck program at this month’s board meeting.

The PreCheck program, which was started in October 2011, initally was by invitation-only and limited to elite-status fliers enrolled in certain airline frequent flier programs. It was later expanded to be part of the Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program as well as other programs for travel to and from specific countries such as the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) for travel between the U.S. and Mexico.

Currently, more than 12 million travelers are enrolled in the PreCheck at 40 U.S. airports, including Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport where it is operational for US Airways passengers in Terminal 4.

Under the planned expansion, U.S. citizens who want to be in the PreCheck program will be asked to apply through an online government website, which TSA has not made public yet, and pay an $85 enrollment fee, which, assuming an application is ultimately approved, will be good for five years. As part of the verification process applicants will be required to verify their identity and provide fingerprints at an enrollment center.

Currently there are enrollment centers in Phoenix and Nogales. Tucson International Airport would like to also be a site and Allin said hopefully that can happen, possibly as early as next month. As part of a pilot rollout started earlier this summer, enrollment centers were established at Washington Dulles International Airport and Indianapolis International Airport.

The TSA estimates vetting of applicants will take two to three weeks.

Approved applicants will be notified by mail and receive a “Known Traveler Number” which should then be used whenever booking travel. The Known Traveler Number will be printed on boarding passes.

Expedited screening will allow passngers to use separate dedicated PreCheck lanes at airport and typically “will receive more limited physical screening, e.g., will be able to leave on their shoes, light outerwear, and belt, to keep their laptop in its case, and to keep their 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in a carry-on,” according to the TSA announcement.

Applicants who are deemed ineligible for the trusted traveler program will be given an opportunity to correct errors of misidentification or innacurate criminal or immigration records, the TSA said.

The TSA says it expects to register as many as 25 percent of frequent fliers into the program within a year.

Mesa Gateway cuts

A year ago Mesa Gateway Airport was proclaiming itself to be the fastest growing commercial airport in the U.S. and had unveileved plans for a $1.4 billion, four-phase expansion to cover anticipated growth over the next 20 years.

Those plans now look as if they can be scaled back a bit. After less than two years at Gatway, ultra-low-fare Spirit Airlines has decided it will move its operations to Sky Harbor International Airport as of Oct. 24. And Frontier Airlines, which has been grasping at straws to try to reinvent itself as another ultra-low-cost airline, decided it will no longer continue with its winter seasonal flights to the airport.

So Mesa is back to Allegiant, an airline that specializes in offering one or two flights a week to off the beaten-path airports including Bellingham, Wash.; Billings, Bismarck, Bozeman, Great Falls and Missoula, Mont.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Rockford, Ill.; Duluth, Minn.; Eugene, Ore.; Fargo, N.D.; and Moline, Ill.

Contact David Hatfield at dhatfield@azbiz.com or (520) 295-4237. Inside Business Travel appears the fourth week of each month.

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