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Post-Osama: Would You Pay For Faster Security?

The Transportation Security Administration is moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to airport screening. John S. Pistole, TSA administrator, is intent on gradually changing the current system, which could mean a future where some passengers go through a kind of “first-class” security procedure. Imagine this: no frisking, no scanners and no fussing about with your laptop.

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Tired of having to take their shoes off or put their carry-on liquids in 3.4 ounce bottles and clear plastic bags, some passengers are clamoring for change. What the TSA hasn’t said is whether it would consider asking passengers to pay for a more streamlined experience. (The TSA declined to comment on that.)

However, the TSA tells Pay Dirt that it’s developing additional ways to further incorporate “identity-based security” into its procedures to strengthen security on board commercial aircraft, while improving the screening experience, but in a way that terrorists can’t game the system.

Last month, Pistole gave a speech entitled “Transportation Security Ten Years After 9/11 And Ten Years From Now,” in which he said the agency was making good progress in developing a “truly risk-based, intelligence-driven organization in every way” to direct resources at higher-risk passengers.

He wants to speed the plough for the 628 million airline passengers screened per year: “I believe what we’re working on will provide better security by more effectively deploying our resources, while also improving passengers’ travel experiences by potentially streamlining the screening experience for many people,” he said.

In the aftermath of the death of Osama bin Laden, Pistole also spoke to Thursday’s The Wall Street Journal about “trusted travelers” being allowed to keep their shoes and even avoid body scanners by using their frequent-flier data. “We think we can improve the process and focus more on people we know nothing about,” he said.

James Carafano, security consultant at the conservative Heritage Foundation think-tank, says he too would like streamlined airport security: “Is the inconvenience and the cost really worth it? No. What really makes everyone safe is getting the terrorist before they get near the airplane. I’d pay $10, $20, even $50 to avoid it.”

Would you?

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    • I’m happy to pay a one time fee, or annual fee, but I’d want it available at every airport. I fly 15 times a year, mostly first class. I don’t want to go thru the new body scanners and I’d like to avoid the current ones. I sometimes am allowed to bypass the longer lines at security since I fly first class, but this is not available at all airports. Even though I prefer to save time and bypass the lines, I am more than willing to take longer to endure a full body pat down rather than walk thru the new body scanners. I don’t want to pay $50 per flight to bypass the current security, that would increase my travel another $3,000/yr, and I don’t want to pay $500/yr to bypass security once every five flights. It must be comprehensive, at evey location, and reasonable in cost.

    • “Would you?”

      Are you kidding? We went from frequent international fliers to not flying at all over this…I thought it was bad overseas 8 years ago when automatic weapons were pointed at me and I went through 5 screenings….it took a full 3 hours to get through, even without a line! But even then, no one groped me! Only in America. I won’t fly. I’d quit my job if it came to that. So yeah, I’d pay $50 without a second thought…but what kind of country gives security preference to the wealthy?

    • The US CPB already has several ‘trusted traveler’ programs in place for travel to / from Canada, Mexico and selected other countries. My NEXUS ‘trusted traveler’ card contains a chip and is tied to both my fingerprints and a scan of my iris. I applied, paid a non-insignificant fee and when through interviews with both US CBP and Canadian border protection officers before being accepted into the program and issued a card. Why the TSA doesn’t work with CBP to extend the existing ‘trusted traveler’ programs to domestic travel is beyond comprehension.

    • A one-time charge for a ‘security passport’, but not a charge for each boarding. Would save time and inconvenience.

    • I think that the government could streamline secrity by offering a passport like document with an electronic chip in it. After you apply and get this document, the government will have already done a backround check on you, and cleared you for express screening.

      Now, if the government charges a small fee, such as $10 for an express screening, then they can raise vital dollarsr for the cost of airport security as well.

      iIt’s a win win situation.

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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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