On the heels of a decision by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to allow a private sector rollout of a Registered Traveler Program at the Orlando International Airport, AirTran Airways, a subsidiary of AirTran Holdings, Inc., (NYSE: AAI), has become the first airline to announce that it intends to move quickly to respond to TSA's invitation and seek to join the program so that its passengers can receive expedited clearance through security checkpoints.
The private sector program at Orlando International Airport, the country's eighth busiest airport, will be operated free of any cost to taxpayers and will be open to all airlines. It will be completely voluntary and governed by strict privacy protection policies and procedures. AirTran Airways and Verified ID Pass, along with the Greater Orlando Airport Authority, made a formal proposal to TSA last June to obtain clearance for such a private sector program to be launched in Orlando. As a result, AirTran Airways is ready to move ahead quickly as soon as the TSA formally publishes the required regulations.
TSA has been testing a Registered Traveler concept at five airports around the country. Although the tests have been widely regarded as extraordinarily successful, the nature of the pilot program limited enrollment. The private sector program at Orlando International Airport will involve no taxpayer cost, enrollment will be unlimited and it is expected to have a broad base of participants.
"We're delighted that AirTran Airways' and Orlando International Airport's leadership and perseverance in an attempt to offer their customers added convenience and safety has been rewarded," said Verified ID Pass CEO Steven Brill. He added, "both AirTran Airways and the Orlando International Airport have a long tradition of dedication to customer service and security, and we're glad to have the opportunity to be involved in helping them extend that record. We're also grateful to TSA Director David Stone and his team at TSA and the Department of Homeland Security -- first for testing the concept and the process, and then encouraging the private sector to come in and roll it out."
"This combination of government testing, followed by encouraging the private sector to provide the long term solution is government at its best," said AirTran Airways' Chairman and CEO Joe Leonard. "TSA deserves great credit for being the incubator for a program that the private sector can now run with -- and AirTran Airways is delighted to take the lead. We're also excited about working with Verified ID Pass," Leonard added, "because we are convinced that Verified ID has developed an innovative, common-sense and low-cost solution."
Although the exact cost to customers for membership in the program cannot be known until TSA issues specific operational requirements, Brill said that based on the technology and procedures used in the TSA pilot programs as well as his own company's testing and business modeling, he is confident that Verified ID will be able to offer the card to AirTran Airways passengers for approximately $50. This is about half of what the airline industry's market research has suggested customers would pay for Registered Traveler status that helps move them through security checkpoints faster. Verified ID will bear all the costs associated with the program.
Under the TSA plan, TSA is in no way endorsing Verified ID as a sole service provider.