By Deborah Charles
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said on Wednesday it would expand its expedited screening program to 60 new U.S. airports in 2013, allowing tens of millions of Americans to get through airport checkpoints without taking off their shoes.
The TSA said with the expansion, the TSA PreCheck program will operate at 100 airports across the country in 42 states plus Guam and Puerto Rico. The agency also plans to expand the number of TSA PreCheck lanes at the existing 40 airports in the coming weeks.
With TSA PreCheck, pre-approved airline travelers may leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt while they go through security. They do not have to remove their laptop computers from cases nor take out approved-sized liquids out of carry=on bags before the bags are screened.
"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," TSA Administrator John Pistole said.
Passengers who are eligible for PreCheck include U.S. citizens of frequent traveler programs who are invited to apply by participating airlines. The airlines include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America.
Additionally, U.S. citizens who are members of a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler program and Canadian citizens who are members of the NEXUS expedited travel program qualify to participate.
The TSA will launch an application program later this year for PreCheck, which lets travelers fill out an online application and provide fingerprints. Applicants must pay an $85 enrollment fee for a five-year term of eligibility.
If a passenger is approved for PreCheck, a TSA PreCheck indicator will be embedded in the barcode of the boarding pass so when it is scanned at a security checkpoint, the passenger will be sent to the expedited screening line.
TSA can revoke or suspend the PreCheck if a passenger has had security issues at the gate or has committed a crime since their PreCheck was granted, a TSA official said. In addition, TSA could randomly require a PreCheck passenger to go through regular security.
The TSA said to date, more than 15 million passengers have experienced TSA PreCheck since it was launched in October 2011.
The U.S. Travel Association, a travel industry group, has praised the TSA for launching PreCheck and for speeding the process through airports by removing low-risk travelers from the regular screening process.
(Reporting by Deborah Charles; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)