PreCheck program goes international

Air Canada is the first international airline to join TSA's PreCheck program, which allows low-risk Canadian and U.S. travelers to expedite the security process at certain U.S. airports.

The Transportation Security Administration expanded its airport preclearance program to its first non-domestic carrier on April 30, allowing passengers on Air Canada flights departing from U.S. airports to use expedited security lanes.

A TSA spokesman told FCW that the agency is close to adding other foreign-based airlines to the PreCheck program.

For now, only Air Canada passengers departing from 41 U.S. airports are eligible, the spokesman said. Canada has its own airline security program that handles clearances at its airports.

Air Canada has a heavy presence at U.S. airports. It operates more than 440 nonstop flights per day on more than 85 routes to and from 49 U.S. and six Canadian airports.

TSA has ramped up expansion of the PreCheck program in the past several months by extending it to more airports, opening up a less expensive second-tier option, setting up an online application process and adding more expedited passenger lanes at airports.

TSA has PreCheck lanes at 118 of the approximately 400 commercial airports in the U.S. Precleared passengers can leave their shoes and belts on, keep laptop PCs and liquids in their luggage, and pass through metal detectors instead of imaging machines, thereby speeding their trip though security while shortening TSA's other security lanes.

The security check is based on passenger data that airlines are required to send to TSA for flights into, out of, within and over the continental United States.

Passengers usually enroll in PreCheck through airlines' frequent flier programs by storing their Secure Flight Passenger Data -- name, date of birth and gender -- in their profile. Once a passenger opts into the system, TSA selects participants on a per-flight basis. According to TSA, participants are more likely to be selected for the prescreened lanes if they also participate in Customs and Border Protection's Trusted Traveler programs -- such as Global Entry, SENTRI and NEXUS -- or by completing a PreCheck application.

To participate in the program, airlines must upgrade their computer systems to be able to embed security information into boarding-pass bar codes and print the PreCheck logo on the passes.

Initially, Air Canada passengers will only be able to get clearance logos and embedded bar codes on boarding passes printed at airport ticket desks and kiosks. The capability won't be immediately available for the airline's mobile boarding pass and print-at-home options, according to TSA.

International airlines with sizable numbers of flight departures from U.S. airports are a logical next step for the program's expansion. The TSA spokesman declined to name the next international carrier to join the program but said the agency is working with a number of them. British Airways, Lufthansa and Aer Lingus all have a substantial number of departures from U.S. airports.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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