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TSA pressed to expand easier screening beyond frequent flyers

Natalie Behring/Getty Images

The TSA said it is extending its PreCheck screening program to 35 airports by yearend from seven last year.

WASHINGTON -The Transportation Security Administration is being pressed to speed up its expansion of a program that lets some frequent flyers speed through airport security while keeping their shoes, belts, and jackets on.

The TSA is extending its PreCheck expedited screening program to 35 airports by year-end from seven last year. Asked by Senator Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, at a hearing Wednesday when 20 percent or one-third of US passengers will be enrolled, TSA administrator John Pistole declined to be specific, saying the goal was to expand as broadly and quickly as possible while maintaining security.

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“Ten years after TSA was created, the screening process is viewed by many as overly burdensome,’’ Landrieu said.

PreCheck is only open to top-level frequent flyers nominated by their airlines or travelers who pay $100 to enter the Customs and Border Protection Global Entry program.

The barriers prevent people from joining, said Roger Dow, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Travel Association.

A Global Entry applicant from New Orleans would have to drive six hours to Houston for a background interview, Dow said. The same person would have to spend about $10,000 on airline tickets to earn frequent flier miles needed to qualify, according to an association analysis.

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