Shedding shoes, slipping off belts and cracking open laptops are about to become annoyances of the past for selected air travelers at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
Beginning Oct. 1, the Transportation Security Administration will initiate its TSA Precheck program at Buffalo and four other upstate airports following successful experiments at 40 other airports across the country.
“As TSA continues to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to transportation security, we are looking for more opportunities to provide the most effective security in the most efficient way possible,” said TSA Administrator John S. Pistole in announcing the program’s expansion. “Expanding TSA Precheck to more locations enables many more passengers across the country to experience expedited screening.”
Those accepted into the program will pre-clear for air travel in a manner similar to that for NEXUS commuters across the region’s international borders, according to C. Douglas Hartmayer, spokesman for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.
The program will significantly shorten the security process by providing an embedded barcode in the boarding pass so that when scanned at the checkpoint, the passenger may be referred to a TSA Precheck lane.
At Buffalo, Hartmayer said the new Precheck lane will be located to the left as passengers enter the inspection area. Security personnel also will dispense with pat-downs and the requirement to separate liquids from baggage.
“This should really enhance the traveling experience at our airport,” he said.
To qualify, applicants must fill out an online application, pay an $85 fee for five-year eligibility, and then verify identity and provide fingerprints at a TSA Precheck enrollment center.
The program is available for already participating airlines like Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America. JetBlue and Southwest are expected to join when operationally ready, according to the TSA.
Many participating airlines already print a TSA Precheck indicator directly on the boarding pass so passengers will know in advance they have been cleared for expedited screening.
U.S. citizens who are members of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler program and Canadian citizens who are members of CBP’s NEXUS program qualify to participate. Hartmayer said airlines will invite their top-tier customers to participate, while active U.S. military also will qualify.
It all combines to make Buffalo Niagara International even more attractive for millions of Canadians now using the facility every year, Hartmayer said.
“This should be especially enticing to our many Canadian customers who experience a much more lengthy process at home,” he said. “This is a big deal.”
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., also announced the program’s expansion on Wednesday after seeking its implementation at Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Westchester County airports.
“Buffalo is an ideal location for the TSA expansion of this pilot program, because it will greatly aid our efforts to attract more international travelers and flights in Buffalo, and will allow pre-screened passengers to have a safer, hassle-free travel experience in and out of Western New York each day,” he said. “With expedited travel now coming to Buffalo, we will see increases in safety and efficiency for vacationers and business travelers alike, all while providing a shot in the arm for the Buffalo economy.”
Schumer said the TSA will always incorporate random and unpredictable security measures throughout the airport and that no individual will be guaranteed expedited screening. The TSA’s multilayered approach to security also includes behavior detection officers, explosives-detection systems, canine teams and federal air marshals, among other measures both seen and unseen.
Travelers can find more information at tsa.gov/TSA-Precheck.