- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A select group of frequent fliers will be able to keep their shoes on and their laptops in their bags as they go through screening checkpoints at major airports, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said Wednesday.

The new expedited screening lanes at checkpoints were first piloted last year at four airports.

The agency says they were a great success and is expanding the program to 35 airports in total by the year’s end - covering almost all the nation’s major airports.

Passengers in TSA’s PreCheck program have gone through the faster screening more than 300,000 since the pilot began in October, said agency spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

“The people who’ve been through the program are very pleased with it … that’s why we’re expanding,” Ms. Farbstein told The Washington Times.

She stressed that even members of the PreCheck program will be randomly subjected to regular screening. “That’s an important element of the program,” she said.

TSA is not releasing the number of passengers who have joined the program, what information they have to disclose, or the specific criteria for membership eligibility, “for security reasons,” Ms. Farbstein said.

Passengers who are eligible will be invited to sign up by their frequent flier program, she said.

American and Delta airlines’ frequent flier programs are participating, and U.S. Airways, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines are signing up passengers and will begin operations this year.

U.S. citizens who already are signed up for U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s various biometric quick entry programs for international travelers also are eligible.