Jason and Courtney Koerning always find it hard enough to check their two toddlers through airport security, but a new program just under way at Buffalo Niagara International Airport now makes the process a tad easier.
The Monroe County family was among those passing through eased security measures Wednesday under the new Pre-Check Program launched earlier this month at Buffalo by the federal Transportation Security Administration – the blue-uniformed folks who previously required the Koernings and everyone else to remove shoes, belts, liquids and laptop computers when being screened before boarding.
But because the Koerning parents were precleared through the new program, the formerly tedious procedure of herding themselves and their children through security no longer requires shedding garments or extending their arms upward for those controversial body scans.
“It was very quick, very easy. It was helpful with kids,” Courtney Koerning, of Webster, said as she gathered toddlers Avery and Sam after clearing security. “It was a lot quicker.”
That’s the idea, according to Derek “Rick” DePietro, TSA director at Buffalo, who said 2,000 passengers per day are now using the service at the airport since it was introduced Oct. 14.
“While most passengers are focused on the convenience of leaving their shoes on,” he said, “the program also has a security plan enabling TSA to focus our efforts on passengers we know less about and providing expedited screening for those passengers who have volunteered more information about themselves prior to flying.”
DePietro also said the TSA continues to move away from a “one size fits all” approach to airport security, especially with the recognition that most passengers pose no threat.
The program, announced earlier this year for Buffalo after its introduction at larger airports across the country, is now available at 97 airports. It allows U.S. citizens who are frequent fliers, members of existing preclearance programs such as Trusted Traveler or NEXUS, and members of the armed forces to easily apply to obtain the clearance. Canadian travelers, who comprise almost 50 percent of passenger traffic at Buffalo, are also eligible.
Claudio Ciurleo and Alex Manno, both of Toronto, were thrilled that their frequent-flier programs allowed them to qualify. Their airport experience would prove much more relaxing, Ciurleo said.
“We’ve lots of time now, so we can relax and have a coffee,” he said.
Passengers at Buffalo will be directed to a special lane to the left of the primary security area, said William R. Vanecek, director of aviation for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. For the most part, they will no longer be required to remove shoes or belts, and can keep liquids at required volumes in carry-on luggage. He said that all airlines serving Buffalo are now participating in the program, except JetBlue and Southwest, which are expected to join by Dec. 1.
Random security checks will always take place, even for those participating in the program, officials said, and it was evident at the Pre-Check lane on Wednesday as some travelers were still asked to remove shoes.
The program is available from 4 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Buffalo, and information is available at TSA.gov/TSA-Precheck. The government requires an $85 fee to participate.