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VOL. 129 | NO. 184 | Monday, September 22, 2014

TSA Expands PreCheck at Memphis Airport

By Amos Maki

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Pace Cooper, president and CEO of Cooper Hotels, a hospitality development and management company that owns and manages hotels in multiple states, is accustomed to flying and the hassles that sometimes accompany air travel.

The Transportation Security Administration has added a second expedited security checkpoint at Memphis International Airport.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

So Cooper, a member of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority board, had grown accustomed to the sometimes intrusive screening methods used by the Transportation Security Administration.

But when the TSA launched a program, called PreCheck, that allowed qualified air passengers to bypass the hassle of things like removing their shoes, Cooper was quick to register.

”It does make it a little faster, a little easier, a little more peaceful experience,” said Cooper. “You know, I’m a road warrior so I’m used to the drill, but any time you can tighten the drill, make it a little smoother, a little less stressful, it’s a good thing.”

Now, the TSA has added another PreCheck screening lane in Concourse C at Memphis International Airport. Previously, PreCheck was only available in Concourse B.

PreCheck launched nationwide in December, and in April, the TSA opened a PreCheck application site at Memphis International. Through Aug. 22, 1,462 people had applied for the program at Memphis International. Nationwide, around 550,000 people have applied.

PreCheck is basically an expedited screening program that allows travelers to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belts, keep their laptops in cases and keep compliant liquids and gels in a carry-on bag.

The TSA PreCheck application process allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to go through pre-enrollment online at tsa.gov and visit application centers like the one at Memphis International to provide biographic information, such as name, date of birth and address; fingerprints; and valid identity and citizenship or immigration documentation. The cost is $85 for five years.

“It gets away from that one-size-fits-all approach to security,” said Mark Howell, regional spokesman for the TSA. “By gathering a little information about passengers before they fly, we can assess risk for those passengers. If we can assess a low risk for those passengers then we can provide expedited screening. It’s a more efficient way of doing things and it helps everybody.”

The TSA reported Sept. 15 that wait times at airport security checkpoints were “way down” when compared to last summer. The TSA said it measured wait times between June and August and found TSA officers screened about 173 million people, with 99.6 percent of all passengers waiting in line less than 20 minutes and 99.98 percent of passengers in the PreCheck program moving through the checkpoints in less than 10 minutes.

“(PreCheck) is based on the understanding that the vast majority of people traveling pose little to no threat to aviation and therefore TSA can expedite their security screening process at the checkpoint,” said Bob Burns on the TSA’s blog. “So, while things are moving faster, our vigilance remains the same.”

Cooper said the program brings a reasonable TSA screening process, which has gained headlines over the years for snafus with expecting mothers and senior citizens, for regular travelers while allowing officers to check deeper into unknown or potentially dangerous passengers.

“We all recognize the government needs to keep TSA strong and vigilant, and the idea there is a regular traveling group and they have been vetted, I think they’re getting it right by trying to have more people who they know are traveling processed,” said Cooper. “The ones who you don’t know what you’re getting, they go through a more deep process, and that is the right strategy, I think, for uncovering problems.”

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