pating airlines at only 21 airports. TSA, however,
continues to add airports to the list.
As it currently operates, PreCheck is, in essence,
an airline-based program designed to be used by
premier passengers. Because it is not available to a
larger pool of travelers, the throughput on PreCheck
screening lanes is often lower than normal lanes.
For example, on a four-lane checkpoint, if one lane
is designated PreCheck, only PreCheck passengers
may use this lane, resulting in uneven usage of the
lane. While more than 200 passengers per hour can
be processed in a typical PreCheck lane, the volume
Implementing an automated solution would free up
TSA personnel, potentially allowing more officers
to work the front-end screening function.
actually may be less than 100 due to a small eligible
pool of passengers at that airport.
Additionally, PreCheck eligibility is complicated
by confusing rules that can frustrate passengers. The
processes for notifying eligible passengers are not
clear and, even if a passenger is eligible, he or she
only can use PreCheck on the carrier that notified
this passenger. The availability of PreCheck needs to
be expanded to ease passenger checkpoint congestion
nationwide, and airports believe the way to do it is
through an airport-based enrollment program.
Under this scenario, airports would enroll passengers who voluntarily offer the required information to participate. This would make PreCheck
similar to the CBP’s Global Entry program, only it
would be designed for domestic travelers. Global
Entry is a CBP program that allows expedited
clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon
arrival in the U.S. Though intended for frequent
international travelers, there is no minimum number of trips required to qualify for the program.
Participants may enter the U.S. by using automated
kiosks located at select airports.
Creating a domestic version of CBP’s program
could involve allowing administration of the program by private companies as well. TSA would
need to set the standards for approval of such a
With RBS principles in mind and looming budget cuts, TSA also could consider re-evaluating
the effectiveness of its Transportation Security
Inspector (TSI) staff levels. Prior to 9/11, very few
airports had FAA security inspectors based at their
facility. After TSA was formed, it was assumed
that large numbers of inspectors were needed. This
assumption has never been revisited or validated.
Now, TSIs often outnumber the security staff of the
airport operator. Why? What’s the basis for this?
What data supports these large staffs?
Under 49 CFR Part 1542, airport operators are
responsible for operating and maintaining the Airport
Security Program (ASP), not TSA. Airport operators
have been managing ASPs for almost 40 years, and
I’m sure inspection data would show that, overall,
we’re doing a pretty good job. Why do we need so
much onsite, daily oversight? Is there a cost/benefit
analysis that shows it is worth it? FAA doesn’t have
that level of oversight for 14 CFR Part 139 (safety)
oversight, neither does the Coast Guard for 1542’s
seaport equivalent regulation, 33 CFR Part 105.
Reconsidering the TSI program and staff model could
be another way to add personnel to the actual passenger screening function.
Airport operators also have a key role in improving the efficiency of the passenger flow through an
airport. Given the ongoing changes in technology that
are revamping the passenger’s progress from curbside
to planeside, how should the front of the terminal be
restructured? At Portland, we are conducting a study
to look at the long-term configuration of the public
side of the terminal. For example, almost all airport
terminals have horizontal ticket counters, but many
are opting for a vertical configuration. That makes
for greater efficiency because it could accommodate
a combination of kiosk positions for check-in and
islands to drop bags, along with agent stations for passengers who need to talk to an agent. With the technological advances in the check-in process, the slowest
point in the curbside-planeside process could be the
passenger security screening. As airport operators
consider terminal reconfigurations, it is important to
involve your local TSA in the process. We are going to
study the entire flow with an eye to the future while
working with TSA and our airline partners.
Checkpoints almost always can use more space,
but is it always safe to assume exit lanes should
be co-located with screening? Can automated exit
lane technology be used? Depending upon the
airport and the time of day, the exit lane now may
be staffed by two TSA personnel. Implementing
an automated solution would free up TSA personnel, potentially allowing more officers to work the
front-end screening function. TSA can help this
effort by working with airports and airlines to set
standards for automated exit lanes based on the
handful of approved systems currently in place.
As passenger traffic begins to grow again and
budgets contract, RBS is the right approach. To
make RBS more successful, TSA should revalidate
the assumptions made when the agency was hurriedly formed 10 years ago and consider expanding
its collaboration with airports to develop more RBS
efficiencies at airports.
Mark Crosby, A.A.E., is chief of public safety and security at
Portland International Airport for the Port of Portland, Ore. He
may be reached at email@example.com. Crosby is
chair of AAAE’s Transportation Security Services Committee.