Registered Traveler extended indefinitely

A pilot test of a program to expedite passenger screening and increase airline security has been successful enough to be worth continuing for the foreseeable future at five airports, Transportation Security Administration officials said.

In a Federal Register notice, TSA officials announced the extension of the Registered Traveler pilot program, which aims to enroll 10,000 frequent air travelers into a system that obtains their digital fingerprints and scans their irises. Frequent-flier volunteers invited into the program by airlines approach a designated checkpoint lane with a kiosk, undergo scanning for biometric information that is entered into a database and proceed to another checkpoint for screening.

American Airlines Inc. worked with TSA at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in and Logan Airport in Boston. Similar tests were conducted in July with Northwest Airlines in Minneapolis and United Air Lines Inc. in Los Angeles, and in August with Continental Airlines Inc. in Houston and Boston.

Speeding the process of checking in and boarding planes by reducing the time associated with screening each traveler is one way that DHS officials hope the program will streamline airport operations.

TSA spokeswoman Deirdre O'Sullivan said the program has made so much progress that the only airport still accepting new applicants is Reagan National. The others will continue to use the Registered Traveler kiosks until a preliminary assessment is completed in the next couple months.

"We consider it a success, but we continue to gather data as we put together our preliminary assessment," O'Sullivan said.

There are signs that some travelers, faced with a trade-off between convenience and personal privacy, may choose to share more information with the government if they are allowed to skip secondary airport screening. Volunteers currently provide TSA with their names, addressed, phone numbers, birth dates and biometric identifiers.

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