Get through SFO security in 30 secondsBy Joshua Sabatini
As soon as October, passengers flying out of the San Francisco International Airport could pass through security lines within seconds if they pay an annual fee and offer up very personal information.
Five airports in the nation have implemented the so-called Registered Traveler program designed to provide frequent fliers with relief from the long waits in post-Sept. 11 security lines.
SFO will become the sixth airport in the nation to implement the program, which Mayor Gavin Newsom said would "get us further along the lines of being the most effective, efficient and reliable airport in the United States."
The airport's current average wait time to pass through security is 2.4 minutes compared with the national average of 4.2 minutes, and during peak times the wait averages six minutes compared with the national average of 16 minutes, Newsom said.
That wait time could decrease to 30 seconds for members of the Registered Traveler program, according to San Francisco airport Director John Martin.
The program costs a traveler $99 a year. The fee gets the traveler a biometric ID card that lets security screeners know that the traveler is not a security threat and can move to the front of the security line or use special security lines only for ID holders.
To become a member, a traveler must undergo a retina scan, fingerprinting and an extensive background check, as thorough as what airport employees undergo before being hired, Martin said.
SFO will ask private companies to compete to become the operator of Registered Traveler Program, which is expected to go live in October.
The program comes at a time when SFO is adding three major airline carriers: JetBlue, Southwest and Virgin, which is expected to boost the region's economy, but also have the unintended consequence of increasing wait times in security airport lines.
Last January, Mineta San Jose International Airport implemented the program and has already signed up 4,000 frequent flyers, according to San Jose airport spokesman Rich Dressler. The program has been a "tremendous success," he said.
Copyright ©2007 Peninsula Examiner. Published 04/12/2007.