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Security: Front of the Queue

A shift in focus to the beginning of the travel process could pay dividends for the Checkpoint of the Future

Aviation’s security measures work. Yet challenges remain with the passenger experience and throughput levels.

A survey conducted by the US Travel Association shows American travelers would take an additional two to three flights per year if the security experience was improved. These extra trips would add $85 billion in consumer spending and nearly 900,000 jobs to the American economy.

Roger Dow, President and CEO of US Travel, agrees the security process can be inefficient and frustrating. “We can reduce the hassle of flying without compromising security,” he says. “When we do, more Americans will travel and our economy will benefit.”

IATA’s Checkpoint of the Future could be the silver-lining in this cloud of dissatisfaction. It will use risk-based analysis plus behavioral recognition and new technology to make many day-to-day issues obsolete, such as patting down and having to remove coats and other items. While the long-term vision remains clear, attention is now focused on how existing Trusted Traveler schemes can be leveraged in the near-term.

Forward thinking

A number of Trusted Traveler programs are studying the travel process to determine the best approach for the industry. But of the 25 or so programs in operation around the world, 23 are concerned with the end of the journey—getting passengers through customs and immigration. The two working on smoothing the security process are PreCheck in the United States and Nexus in Canada.

PreCheck is essentially a pre-screening process for airline passengers. These frequent flyers have supplied critical information, including biometric data. Members of Delta’s and American’s frequent-flyer programs, as well as members of the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler programs, are involved, and around 30 US airports will be participating by the end of 2012.

Uptake of the scheme has been beyond expectation and overall evidence from Trusted Traveler programs shows there is a real appetite for a new process in the industry and among customers. “Even though some investment is required from airlines, they are reporting that the benefits justify the cost in terms of improved throughput and an improved customer experience,” says Ken Dunlap, IATA Director, Security and Travel Facilitation.

Beyond borders

One notable limitation of the two security-focused schemes is that they are currently open to nationals only and apply solely to home territory. A passenger must be a US citizen to use PreCheck to expedite security clearance in the United States. Only Canadians can use Nexus. It raises the crucial question of how data can be shared across borders to harmonize systems and create a truly global program.

But Dunlap believes sharing data is not the point. More important, he says, is ensuring that countries share the same methodology. “That can be the basis of mutual recognition,” he says. “And that in turn will be the cornerstone of a new system based on IATA’s Checkpoint of the Future.” The US CBP’s Global Entry program already shows what may be possible, with members of other schemes, such as Privium in the Netherlands, eligible to join.

In 2011, a working group began looking at how the United States and the European Union use Advanced Passenger Information (API) data. The group is tasked with studying how to convert the systems into the beginnings of a universal vetting procedure. This took a huge step forward recently with the European Parliament agreeing to a data-sharing arrangement with the US Department of Homeland Security.
The work on defining which data fields to use has also received a boost from an internal IATA survey, which found that many of the Trusted Traveler programs in place already have quite extensive common ground.

But the same survey found that other areas of the programs will require closer attention. Dunlap explains that some use personal interviews as part of the procedure while some are entirely data-driven. Other schemes have implemented automatic enrolment for certain passengers meaning eligibility criteria will also need to be reviewed.

An IATA Checkpoint of the Future Group is also discussing more technical aspects, and locations for some proof-of-concept tests will be announced in due course.

Putting together the jigsaw

For now, developing PreCheck is essential. The short-term goals of PreCheck are expanding the program in terms of the data set and also increasing the number of users. The longer-term aim is to integrate PreCheck into the bigger picture. “PreCheck is just one piece of the jigsaw,” says Dunlap. “At the moment, it is a standalone scheme, so it needs to be incorporated into IATA’s global initiative.”
Other challenges lie in wait too. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) wants a majority of travelers enrolled in PreCheck. Right now, members use the premium travel lanes reserved for business and first-class passengers. If membership does increase substantially, understanding how to reflect those numbers in infrastructure design will be crucial.

“There is a lot of work still to be done,” says Dunlap. “But there is a lot of work that has been done. PreCheck and other programs are proving enormously valuable.

“Perhaps what is most important is that we have acceptance of the need to screen passengers differently,” he continues. “Regulators understand that one-size-fits-all is not an appropriate way forward for global aviation security. A risk-based approach is being followed by all Trusted Traveler programs. The Checkpoint of the Future is getting closer and I’m confident we will achieve our goals.”

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