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TSA opens way to slimmed-down security process

A small share of the people departing through McCarran International Airport can now pass through a slimmed down but little-known security process.

The Transportation Security Administration, the federal agency that handles the screening, formally opened its PreCheck line to Concourse D on Wednesday. Passengers who are approved to use it generally will not have to go through taking off their shoes, belts and light jackets, removing laptop computers from their bags and placing them in bins that run through scanners, or pulling out their liquids.

Currently, only high-mileage customers of Delta and American airlines can avail themselves of the perk after being invited, with United and US Airways expected to begin designating participants early next year. In addition, people who pay to sign up for one of the Customs and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler programs can go into the easier security line at fees that start at $50.

The pilot test of PreCheck was launched at four airports in October, as the TSA has started to move away from a screening approach that treats all passengers the same. It also comes in the wake of criticism last year, both among fliers and in Congress, of pat-down procedures deemed heavy-handed and wasting time on unlikely security threats such as the elderly or small children.

Agency administrator John Pistole said expanding the PreCheck pilot to Las Vegas strengthens “our layered approach to aviation security” and expedites the screening process for known travelers whenever possible.

Pistole said 140,000 people have passed through the PreCheck lines in the past two months, well under 1 percent of the passenger count nationwide.

“I think it’s great. It really speeds things up,” said Thomas Boynton of Atlanta, who racks up ten of thousands of miles a year on Delta.

Nor does he have privacy qualms, since his travel patterns qualify him for the program.

“They have all that information anyway,” he said.

But others are still baffled by the process. George and Rita Harris were heading home to Chicago from a convention. After a scan of their boarding passes into the TSA computer system said they could go through the PreCheck line, both said they didn’t know what the program was.

Another man who arrived at the security checkpoint with sweat on his forehead, said, “Great, I’m already late,” when ushered into the PreCheck line.

As structured at McCarran, the PreCheck line is on the far right side of the Concourse D checkpoint. People who enter on the left side will not get to use PreCheck even if they are enrolled.

The two current airlines, Delta and American, represent 16 percent of McCarran’s total traffic. Market leader Southwest, with 38 percent, has not yet joined.

As a leisure destination, Las Vegas has a smaller share of business road warriors than some of the other test airports, including Atlanta, Detroit and Dallas-Fort Worth. However, said Randall Walker, director of the Clark County Department of Aviation, the city also has heavy convention traffic.

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at
toreiley@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.

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