Many take fast lane of airport screening

Last updated 13:04 06/01/2014

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The US is planning to expand its expedited airport screening program, allowing more travellers to fast forward through the security process.

More than 300 centres are set to be opened by the US Transportation Security Administration which will allow regular US citizens to apply for PreCheck status. Applications require a background check and $US85 ($102.78) for a five-year membership.

Previously travellers were only eligible by invitation from an airline or through membership in existing programs such as the US Custom and Border Protection's Global Entry.

TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis said the agency was moving away from a "one-size-fits-all approach to screening, based on the knowledge that most passengers are low risk".

"We're breaking the travel population into sub-groups and deciding, based on risk, whether we can offer them an expedited screening experience," she said.

"Intelligence tells you children 12 and under and people older than 75 are generally a low risk."

However, PreCheck travellers will not be able to get expedited screening every time they travel.

"We infuse some element of unpredictably for security purposes," Davis said.

Since the launch of the TSA's PreCheck program in 2011, more than 25 million people have had their security screening process at airports expedited.

The Global Business Travel Association and conservative think tank Heritage Foundation have applauded the expansion of PreCheck.

But Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, said PreCheck's information-gathering techniques were murky and the program created "a flying underclass".

"This is what we warned about since the beginning (of PreCheck in 2011): a de facto standard where everyone has to go through a background check to have a normal flying experience," Stanley said.

"Never before has the government rated its own citizen according to how dangerous they supposedly are. We live in a democracy where all people are supposed to be treated equal."

George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchdog.com, said he supported the expansion because "it will make it less exclusive, which is good because the lines are faster. You really breeze through."

- MCT

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