The Portland International Jetport now has an expedited-screening program that allows pre-approved travelers to avoid the hassles of removing shoes, coats and belts when trying to navigate airport security lines.

The program, called TSA PreCheck, is currently available at 97 airports, with six additional airports being added by the end of the year, the Transportation Safety Authority said on Thursday. So far, more than 18 million passengers have used the faster system, which initially launched in Oct. 2011.

“The program gives us the opportunity to focus resources on the population we know less about while giving expedited access to certain passengers,” Ann Davis, the TSA’s public affairs manager for the northeast region, said on Thursday. “We’re moving away from one-size-fits-all ways of screening.”

In addition to being able to leave on shoes and coats, the program allows approved travelers to keep their laptops, as well as liquids and gels, in their bags.

Portland and other airports selected for the faster screening program must have space for a dedicated lane for expedited travelers. The TSA chooses the airports that get the system and when they get rolled out, Davis said.

Expedited screening is available to certain members of frequent-flier programs of seven approved airlines: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America. It is also available to travelers in the federal government’s “trusted traveler programs.” The trusted traveler programs, such as Global Entry and NEXUS, allow international travelers expedited passage through U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoints.

Active-duty military personnel in good standing also can use the Precheck program, the TSA said.

Soon, the TSA will launch an application for U.S. citizens for a direct enrollment program that would allow more travelers to apply for PreCheck. The application route will cost $85 for a five-year membership. The application process requires travelers to submit fingerprints, proof of identification for background checks, and a description of their physical appearance. It also requires an in-person interview at an enrollment center.

Not everyone approved for expedited screening will get to sail through security every time, however.

“Expedited screening is not a guarantee. There are elements of randomness for security purposes,” Davis said.

Sue Ferguson, who was traveling to Alabama, hadn’t yet heard about the expedited program but said it made sense to speed along long lines, especially at the busiest airports. And she was happy about the idea that some travelers could keep their shoes on and save time.

“I’m happy about that. That’s such a hassle,” Ferguson said.

Even for people who don’t qualify for the expedited program, the main security lines may move faster since some travelers will be diverted out of the larger pack of people, Davis said.

The TSA has made other efforts to speed check-in procedures for active members of the military, known crew members of flights, and children under 12 and travelers over 75. Those groups are seen as low-risk to air travel, Davis said.

Ellen Pelletier, who was picking up family at the Jetport, said she wasn’t worried that the faster security lines would compromise safety. She also hoped that the holiday travel lines would be shorter.

“The purpose of the program is intelligence-based decisions on how we screen people. The time element – the shorter wait time – is a benefit,” Davis said.

Jessica Hall may be reached at 791-6316 or:

[email protected]

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