Faster security screening coming to Aspen airport | AspenTimes.com

Faster security screening coming to Aspen airport

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

December TRAVELERS

Bill Tomcich, president of reservations firm Stay Aspen Snowmass, said the airport saw an 8 percent increase in commercial-airline passengers at the tail end of 2013, from 40,052 in December 2012 to 43,259 in the same month last year. The figures reflect the number of people flying into the Aspen airport and also leaving it using three airline companies: United, American and Delta. Delta entered the market Dec. 21.

The Transportation Security Administration has chosen the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport for a new program designed to speed up wait times for security screenings — but only for certain passengers who qualify for the program.

The TSA PreCheck program is expected to kick off on Feb. 14, according to airport director Jim Elwood. The Aspen airport was one of slightly more than 100 airports nationwide chosen to participate in the program, he said.

“We had multiple conversations with the TSA thinking that it was a good fit for our airport and our community,” he said Wednesday. “A lot of our visitors and locals travel quite a bit and would potentially be interested in this program or already qualified.”

A special lane will be set up to move PreCheck members through the screening process more quickly than nonmember travelers in the regular lane. The fee to join the program is $85, and membership is valid for five years.

Qualified travelers will not have to remove their shoes, belts or lightweight jackets during security screenings. Nor will they have to remove their laptops or small quantities of liquids, gels and aerosols from carry-on luggage.

The program is expected to result in shorter lines and wait times for the regular lane, as well, providing an overall improved customer experience for airport users. Elwood said the TSA also will be able to switch the PreCheck lane into a different mode, using it to process nonmembers during times when there aren’t many PreCheck members waiting for security screenings.

Any U.S. citizen can apply for the expedited screening benefits. Certain frequent fliers and members of existing Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler programs — including Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI — are likely to be eligible already.

The TSA tested the PreCheck program last year in Aspen. The federal agency has been tracking Aspen commercial-airline travelers to determine what percentage likely would be eligible.

“That percentage has hovered between 30 percent and 40 percent of our passengers already being in a position to be qualified,” Elwood said. “So that was helpful for the TSA to understand that it would be a well-utilized service.”

Elwood said security screening lines at the airport can be long and time-consuming, especially during the winter ski season. Bill Tomcich, president of reservations firm Stay Aspen Snowmass, said the airport saw an 8 percent increase in commercial-airline passengers at the end of 2013, from 40,052 in December 2012 to 43,259 in the same month last year. The figures reflect the number of people flying into the Aspen airport and also leaving it.

The Aspen airport is served by three commercial airline companies: United, American and Delta. Part of the December increase was due to Delta’s entry into the market on Dec. 21, but other factors — such as improved snowfall and better flight schedules to and from larger markets — played a role, as well, according to Elwood.

Tomcich said the $85 cost to join the program might not be worth it for those who fly out of Aspen once or twice a year.

“There are so many locals who fly in and out of our airport twice a month, and I would think this would be a marvelous program for them,” he said.

The delays at the TSA checkpoint can be long, Tomcich said, especially early in the morning and also during the early-afternoon airport “rush hour,” Tomcich said.

“This will almost double the capacity of our security checkpoint to the extent that we are able to get people signed up for PreCheck,” he said. “It should help immensely. There was a real issue in the wake of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, with so many people trying to get out.”

For more information about the program, visit http://www.tsa.gov.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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