Frequent flier security program on the fast track

Skipping long lines at airport security checkpoints will soon be more than a dream for some Bay Area frequent fliers under a new “registered traveler” program to be rolled in at airports across the country this summer.

Mineta San Jose International Airport will be among the first in the nation to implement the registered travel program, which will be implemented using private companies, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration announced Thursday.

San Francisco and Oakland airports, however, won’t be among the 10 to 20 airports taking part in the trial program scheduled to get under way by June. In addition, neither airport is currently pursuing companies to install the needed fingerprint, retina and ID scanners when the program goes nationwide in 2007, officials said.

“We feel we have very good security and efficiency for customers, so we don’t see any need to invest a lot of money right now,” said SFO spokesman Mike McCarron, who estimated average wait times at SFO are about five minutes.

The goal is to improve security and shorten wait times, although for a price, San Jose airport spokesman Rich Dressler said. “We see this as a great customer service for our frequent business travelers from Silicon Valley,” he said.

He expects the service to reduce wait times at San Jose by as much as 20 to 30 minutes, Dressler said.

At the Orlando, Fla., airport, one of six airports where the program was tested last year, registered traveler members paid a $79.95 annual fee, Dressler said. While that fee hasn’t been worked out for the San Jose implementation, the airport would receive a cut of any fee, while the security company, Verified Identity Pass, will shoulder the costs, Dressler said.

So-called registered travelers will be required to undergo a government background check, provide biographic information for an ID and have their fingerprint and retina scanned before passing through an initial security gate. As San Jose envisions it, registered travelers would then skip to the front of the standard security line, where they would have their luggage checked and pass through a metal detector, Dressler said.

The exact layout and implementation would be left up to airports, according to TSA spokesman Nico Melendez. One stipulation is that participating travelers must be able to access the program at all airports, the TSA said.

ecarpenter@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

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