TSA wants PreCheck to become the new norm for airport security

Executives discuss trends impacting airport security at annual AAAE conference


May 19--SAN ANTONIO -- The Transportation Security Administration wants its "fast lanes" for low-threat airline passengers to be the new norm for security clearance, an airport security expert told attendees at the 86th annual American Association of Airport Executives on Sunday at the Convention Center.

"In 2012, TSA wanted to have like 10 percent of passengers in PreCheck. In 2013 it was like 25 percent or more. This year it's 50 percent. And I heard at a conference a few weeks ago they're targeting 65 percent now," Lori Beckman, president and CEO of Denver-based Aviation Security Consultants, Inc., said of TSA's planned PreCheck lanes.

The PreCheck lanes allow frequent travelers who aren't considered security risks to bypass post-Sept. 11 security measures such as taking off shoes and removing laptops from their bags. The San Antonio International Airport debuted its PreCheck area in November.

While welcome news to most travelers, it -- like other TSA initiatives -- can mean headaches for those who run airports.

Each change can send airports scrambling to reconfigure their security area, and while the lanes for the most part expedite passenger processing, behind-the-times travelers have been known to back up the queues.

"You have too many passengers that don't travel enough to know," Beckman said, recounting a woman who insisted on following the old procedures.

"It's taken us eight years to get people trained on liquids and everything," said Mark Crosby, chief of public safety and security at the Portland International Airport. "So now with the constant flux that (risk-based security) is doing with respect to PreCheck, a lot of it's good. But the industry, the passenger, isn't able to adapt that quickly."

The frustration airport operators have with the TSA is expected to be a big topic during the conference, which organizers say is the industry's most significant and influential annual gathering with more than 1,750 delegates and representatives from some 220 airports.

Airport operators are fearful of proposed rule making that could turn clearances for employees for airport restaurants and other contractors over to the federal government, crippling the airports with long wait times for concessionaires and construction workers.

"They can't wait a month for a badge to start work," Crosby said.

The airport executives are also concerned about the effect of the Real ID Act, which requires states to make driver's licenses meet federal security standards by 2017.

There were no TSA representatives at Sunday's security discussion, but a "listening and answer" session with TSA officials was planned for Monday afternoon.

The conference runs through Wednesday. It features educational sessions on topics including trending technologies at the airport and developing non-aeronautical sources of revenue. It also features one of the industry's largest exhibitions.

Highlights on Monday are expected to include opening remarks by former San Antonio Mayor and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros and a keynote address by Southwest Airlines President and CEO Gary Kelly. Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is scheduled to speak Wednesday.

lbrezosky@express-news.net

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