If This TSA Test Works, Air Travel Could Get Easier

Author: David McMillin       

If you’re enrolled in TSA PreCheck, you probably remember the in-person component — getting fingerprinted — required to gain approval for the program. Now, those fingerprints are doing more than assisting in the completion of a background check. Last week, TSA announced plans to test a new checkpoint-screening technology at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Denver International Airport. It’s a biometric system that use a passenger’s fingerprints stored in the TSA system to verify his or her identity and obtain boarding-pass information.

If it works, TSA PreCheck members will be able to do more than leave their shoes on and keep their laptops in their bags. They’ll also be able to skip fumbling with physical boarding passes, smartphones, and identification cards. “We are looking to reinvent and enhance security effectiveness to meet the evolving threat and ensure that passengers get to their destinations safely,” Steve Karoly, TSA acting assistant administrator of the Office of Requirements and Capabilities Analysis, said in a statement about the program.

The current program is voluntary, and it won’t replace existing security procedures. Those passengers who choose to participate will still go through the standard process of showing an ID and a boarding pass. However, the TSA said that the long-term potential of the program could eliminate those steps and automate security. This is especially good news for PreCheck passengers who may have noticed longer-than-usual lines. Approximately 2,000 people apply to PreCheck each day, and I’ve noticed some of that traffic translating to increased wait times on a few recent trips.

As the TSA works on fingerprint verification, airlines are also investigating new options for the future of identification. Delta recently partnered with Customs and Border Protection to experiment with a new eGate system, which uses facial-recognition technology to confirm passengers prior to departing the U.S. The innovative programs offer a preview of what the future of air travel might look like. For now, though, you’ll probably still see plenty of lines. Check out “3 Mobile Apps to Improve Your Air-Travel Experience” for some options to make traveling less stressful.

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