TSA lets expert fliers sail through security

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Buzz up!

A security initiative that has eased travelers through several U.S. airports since early March will be introduced today at Pittsburgh International, officials said.
The Transportation Security Administration's "self-select lane" program allows passengers to choose a security checkpoint based on their comfort level with airline travel regulations.

Frequent travelers may choose the expert -- or "black diamond" -- lane. Those requiring more time or assistance -- such as passengers with small children or those using wheelchairs -- may select a green "family/special assistance" lane.

Pittsburgh is the 12th airport in the program, which began in Salt Lake City and Denver. It has since been expanded to airports in Spokane, Boston, Orlando, Cincinnati, Seattle and Oakland, Calif., as well as Raleigh-Durham, Houston-Hobby and Dallas' Love Field.

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It will soon be extended to more of the nation's 435 commercial airports, said Ann Davis, spokeswoman for the TSA.
"We've seen great success, not only in increased customer satisfaction, but in improved throughput and reduction in alarm rates," Davis said.

In some cities, a blue "casual" traveler lane has been introduced, but is not immediately planned for Pittsburgh, where the program was "soft-launched" on Tuesday, Davis said.

Travelers at the Pittsburgh airport said they welcomed the change.

Faith McCutcheon, of Vandergrift, used to travel several times a year as owner of several UPS franchises and is well-versed in the shoes-off, shoes-on, laptop-in-the-bin rituals. But she said having a less-pressured line for "newbies" is a good idea. On Wednesday, she and her sister -- who'd rather drive -- accompanied their mother on the older woman's maiden aircraft voyage for a 70th birthday trip to the Grand Canyon.

"If you don't travel a lot, it can be intimidating," McCutcheon said.

Nationally, TSA is testing other security checkpoint changes, Davis said, including a "zip" lane for customers with only one carry-on bag at the Burbank, Calif. airport, and paperless boarding passes transmitted by cell phones for some Continental Airline flights originating in Houston.

Bonnie Pfister can be reached at [email protected] or 412-320-7886.

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