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September 09. 2013 7:39PM

At Manchester airport, security screening could ease

MANCHESTER — Manchester-Boston Regional Airport is one of 60 airports targeted for a streamlined procedure that will allow low-risk passengers to board flights with shoes, coats and laptops untouched, officials announced.

Both a Manchester airport official and the Transportation Security Administration said they have no firm date when the program, dubbed Pre-Check, will be expanded to include the new airports. It is already in place in 40 airports, including Logan International Airport in Boston.

However, the TSA said it will be in place in Manchester by year's end, and some expect it to be in place by early October, in time for the busy Thanksgiving travel season.

Frequent fliers of qualified airlines will be eligible for the program.

Carry-on luggage will pass through screening machines and passengers will go through metal detectors. But several of the steps that slow lines and frustrate fliers — including removing shoes, belts and laptops — will not be required.

Deputy Manchester airport Director Brian O'Neill said Manchester travelers have been asking for the program because they use it when they board planes to return to New Hampshire.

"Manchester-Boston Regional Airport's inclusion in this emerging TSA security screening program is going to improve customer service while maintaining a high level of security," said Airport Director Mark Paul Brewer.

TSA said the program fits with the goal of Administrator John S. Pistole, who wants to redirect his agency's focus toward those who appear to pose the greatest threat.

"It's our philosophy that one size doesn't fit everybody," said Joseph Salvator, the TSA's deputy assistant. "When TSA was stood up after 9/11, we treated everybody the same. We're trying to move off that model and use a risk-based approach and the intelligence we have developed over the years."

Every Pre-Check flier will be checked against the no-fly list and the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center data base when they book a flight, the TSA said.

Three airlines that use Manchester are already enrolled in the program — U.S. Airways, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. Southwest is expected to join when operationally ready.

Also later this year, the TSA plans to make Pre-Check available to any flier who fills out an application, is fingerprinted and pays an $85 fee. The expansion includes New England airports in Hartford, Conn., Rhode Island and Portland, Maine.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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