Curiously though, the only airport in the country where travelers could complete the program’s required background interview was Indianapolis International Airport. That changed today when TSA opened three enrollment centers in the Washington, DC area. Interestingly, none of them are at DC-area airports. Nor are any of them in DC itself.Instead, according to the Washington Post, the centers are located at
3139 Duke St., Alexandria, Virginia
2200 Broening Highway, Suite 110, Dundalk, Maryland
10665 Stanhaen Place, Suite 300A, La Plata, Maryland
Today the Transportation Security Administration (you know ’em as TSA) began allowing travelers to apply for its PreCheck program (or as TSA calls it, Pre✓™).
According to TSA,
The new application process allows U.S. citizens to directly enroll in TSA Pre✓™, an expedited screening program that allows travelers to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt, keep their laptop in its case and their 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in a carry-on, in select screening lanes. To date, passengers have only been eligible through existing programs such as U.S. Custom and Border Protection’s Global Entry program and frequent flier programs with certain airlines, but this announcement will allow travelers to apply directly for the expedited screening program.
Travelers can pre-enroll at tsa.gov. But to complete the process, they’ll need to complete a background interview at a participating airport. Currently the only participating airport in the entire country is Indianapolis International Airport.
TSA expects to open application centers in the New York City; Washington, DC; and Los Angeles areas later this month. It plans to eventually open more than 300 centers around the country. But for right now, Indianapolis.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been working on addressing long lines at airport security screening areas for quite some time. TSA Precheck lanes are being expanded to more airports every year and Global Entry lets frequent, pre-authorized travelers to zip into the United States. Just last week, we reported faster airport screening via a new TSA program. But that’s not enough, says a travel trade organization, urging Congress to take action.
The U.S. Travel Association (USTA) is battling what they believe to be the cause of problems at our airports; budget restrictions and poor planning. They believe the current system leaves airports unable to handle millions of visitor a year. They have some specific recommendations too.
Calling for a 50-percent reduction in peak the wait times, the USTA believes it should take just 30 minutes to process travelers. They want Customs and Border Protection staffing and participation in the Global Entry Program increased. Congress should be involved in an ongoing way, and should require periodic progress reports, says the association in a list of 20 recommended policy changes.
Back at the TSA, the new system is indeed a step in the right direction, classifying travelers into three tiers — expedited, standard or enhanced — with each level requiring different procedures and qualifiers. The current system treats all travelers the same and is exactly what the Travel Association wants changed.
In an Open Letter to the U.S. Congress, over 70 travel leaders even suggested ways to fund the additional programing necessary to address the problem and increase transparency in the entire process. It’s a lofty goal but one worthy of pursuit: the U.S. economy could lose $95 billion and 518,000 jobs over the next five years due to long security and customs lines at the nation’s airports.
The Transportation Security Administration has been working on its image, engaging readers on its blog with the latest travel security information, inviting fans to “meet the bloggers” and more. The TSA is also finding that its message is more palatable with a dose of humor.
This week on its Transportation Tips post, TSA asks readers to please leave their grenades at home. “After reading the title of this post, your first thought probably was, ‘That’s obvious.’ Not always so”, writes Bob Burns. Just this year, TSA officers have discovered 43 grenades in carry-ons and 40 in checked luggage.
Most of the grenades were inert, replica or novelty items, like antiques someone might buy on eBay. “But a few were live smoke, flare, riot, and flash bang grenades, which can pose major safety issues to aircraft and also violate FAA hazmat regulations,” added Burns.That the majority of grenades TSA sees won’t actually explode isn’t the issue. The problem is that they look just like real grenades during screening, slowing down the process, if not closing and evacuating terminals.
The “please don’t bring” advice goes for grenade shaped belt buckles, lighters, soap, candles, MP3 players, paperweights, inert training grenades, and other items can all look like the real thing when x-rayed.
Behind every bomb-sniffing dog at the airport is hours and hours of repetition and reward. For many, their training starts with a canine kindergarten and continues until they graduate from an elite academy run by MSA Security. Around 160 teams work with these dogs, usually in tandem with the same handler for eight or nine years, until the dog is retired. Smithsonian magazine looks into what goes into training these dogs and how, exactly, dogs detect bombs. Here’s an excerpt:
Merry and Zane Roberts, MSA’s lead canine trainer, work their way along the line of luggage pieces, checking for the chemical vapors-or “volatiles”-that come off their undersides and metal frames. Strictly speaking, the dog doesn’t smell the bomb. It deconstructs an odor into its components, picking out just the culprit chemicals it has been trained to detect. Roberts likes to use the spaghetti sauce analogy. “When you walk into a kitchen where someone is cooking spaghetti sauce, your nose says aha, spaghetti sauce. A dog’s nose doesn’t say that. Instinctively, it says tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, onion, oregano.” It’s the handler who says tomato sauce, or, as it happens, bomb.
Thanks, Smithsonian magazine. I will never smell spaghetti sauce the same way again.