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1/10/2006
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Indianapolis International Airport Takes Step Toward Registered Traveler Program

Transportation Security Administration guidelines for the program are due Jan. 20.

The long-talked-about Registered Traveler program is picking up momentum as its national rollout this summer nears. Indianapolis International Airport says it will use Verified Identity Pass Inc.'s Clear program, becoming the fourth airport to make such a commitment. Indianapolis joins Orlando, which already is up and running with 13,000 travelers signed up for the $80-per-year service, and two California Airports, Sacramento and San Jose, that have said they'll go with Verified's service.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration on Jan. 20 is scheduled to lay out guidelines for the nationally run program, including what types of data are to be collected and stored. The national program is slated to begin screening passengers on June 20, and an Indianapolis International spokesman says the program at that airport should be up and running shortly thereafter.

The Registered Traveler program is designed to move frequent flyers more quickly through airport security checks by pre-screening them using biometric information and background checks, then issuing them smart cards that gain them access to a dedicated security line. For Verified's Orlando program, which is the only such program currently running, passengers pay $80 a year for the convenience. The program also is thought to reduce security risks by slightly lightening the burden of the TSA screeners that staff security checkpoints.

TSA tested the program last year during a six-month pilot in five cities: Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC. During that test Verified's Orlando program started up as what the TSA is referring to as a public-private "sub-pilot." Once registered, travelers arriving at security checkpoints go directly to a dedicated checkpoint where they slide their smart card through a kiosk and verify their identity by allowing the machine to scan either their fingerprint or iris. They then go through the same procedure as at the normal checkpoints, except that they are assured of not being subjected to secondary random searches unless they set off the metal detector or the X-rays show a suspicious object in their carry-on luggage.

Verified's model shields airports from costs, relying on passenger subscriptions as its sole revenue stream. CEO Steven Brill estimates that Verified invests about $2 million to get an airport's program up and running. Once TSA provides its guidelines, Brill, a long-time journalist who founded Court TV and American Lawyer magazine, expects Registered Traveler to pick up steam across the country. "By February, I'd venture to say that two-thirds of the major airports in the country will have announced programs," he says. "This is all going to happen very quickly."

Once that occurs, the TSA is mandating coordination among the service providers so that travelers will only have to pay one annual fee in order to participate in the nationwide program regardless of which vendor is running a given airport's Registered Traveler checkpoint. Unisys, which was the lead vendor for the TSA pilots, is Verified's primary competition.

Verified is moving aggressively to line up as much business as it can before the floodgates open. "Now that we know we're going to be in lots of other places, we're talking to all the major corporate travel agencies and major individual corporations," says Brill. The company has portable kiosks that it takes to interested companies so it can register people on-site. The company is negotiating discounted rates for companies and agencies that provide large numbers of participants. Brill cautions that the annual fees Verified charges are expected to increase once the national program rolls out, but he said the company hasn't yet decided on the amount of that increase.

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