ABIA to join TSA's pre-screening program



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Posted on February 21, 2013 at 6:19 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 21 at 6:21 PM

AUSTIN -- If you are a frequent traveler then you know the drill at the airport --take off your jacket, your shoes, stand and wait in the security line. But by the end of march, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will have a pre-screening program in place that will allow you to by pass these restrictions.

To help move people through lines and improve security, the head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced Austin's inclusion in TSA's pre-check program at Bergstrom Thursday.

"It's our belief that virtually everyone that's traveling today is not a terrorist, but we don't know that unless we can do a bit more with people who share information," administrator John Pistole said.

Pistole said pre-check is currently in place at 35 of the country's largest airports. The inclusion of Austin and four others will make 40.

"It's our way to try to move from the 'one size fits all' construct that was necessary, stood up after 9-11, to that of a risk-based, intelligence-driven organization," Pistole said.

Passengers fill out forms online and schedule an in-person interview at the airport. In return, they get their own security line, can keep their shoes, belt and light jacket on and leave laptops in their bags.

Travelers have had to take shoes off since December of 2001. Texas Congressman Micheal McCaul, who is chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, says the threat to aviation is still very real to Americans. He endorses the expansion of the pre-check program.

"I think it's a safer, more passenger friendly system where we can be more terrorist targeted. Let the people who we know are not a threat get through without taking their shoes off," McCaul said.

Only certain airlines are participating with the program. Southwest Airlines, which is the largest carrier at ABIA, is not one of them. Pistole says Southwest could come on board later this year.

The cost to sign up is $100 and is good for five years.

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