Federal safety measure begins Tuesday at BWI

Fliers need boarding pass to get through security

January 31, 2003|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

On Tuesday, passengers at Baltimore-Washington International Airport will say goodbye to the practice of flashing itineraries and photo IDs to reach their gates, thanks to a federal requirement that all passengers have boarding passes before proceeding through security.

The Transportation Security Administration, which has overseen airline security in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, is phasing in the requirement at the nation's 429 airports, 140 of which follow the rule.

Travelers can get the required boarding passes when they check their bags at the curb or at the ticket counter. Several airlines at BWI also provide computer-operated kiosks where customers can print the passes by swiping their credit cards.

Some also let passengers print "security documents" permitting passage through the checkpoint. Passengers can get them from airline Web sites the day before the flight. Travelers must still show a valid photo identification.

For most passengers, the boarding-pass regulation will end the practice of being pulled out of line for a second screening at the gate. The goal is for travelers to be screened only at the security checkpoint, TSA spokesman Brian Doyle said.

If the computer flags a passenger -- often one-way travelers or those who purchased tickets with cash -- screeners and law enforcement personnel can examine the case at the checkpoint.

"So the security, in essence, is enhanced," Doyle said. "And it doesn't really inhibit the flow."

The TSA will still use roving security screeners, who will check some passengers at the gate. The agency is keeping that option, Doyle said, to add unpredictability in hopes of "keeping the enemy off guard."

Though travelers will no longer be able to simply print an itinerary and show a driver's license to get through security, BWI officials predict that passengers won't be inconvenienced.

Southwest Airlines, BWI's largest carrier with 144 flights a day, began requiring the boarding passes this month at all 59 airports it serves in anticipation of the change. The airline didn't want confusion over which airports required the boarding passes and which didn't. The TSA had said the requirement would take effect for other airlines by March.

Southwest, American, America West, US Airways, Delta, Northwest and Continental offer self-check-in kiosks at BWI, and other airlines are likely to follow.

Southwest spokeswoman Christine Turneabe-Connelly said the airline has reported few problems with the boarding-pass change at BWI, in part because the company has used its Web site to educate customers. Southwest customers tend to be knowledgeable about the Web, she said, noting that hundreds of thousands of passengers receive e-mail updates of flight specials and that about 40 percent book tickets online. She said that 90 percent travel with printed itineraries instead of tickets.

"We've seen a lot of people coming through with online security documents. I think we're getting the word out," Turneabe-Connelly said.

The regulation marks another step in the evolution of BWI, an airport that has seen many changes since the TSA chose it last year as the model airport for testing federal security measures. It was the first airport to make all security screeners federal workers, and it took advice from private consultants such as Disney and Boeing in designing its checkpoints.

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