The airlines forward the information to the Transportation Security Administration, which vets the passenger, including a check against terrorist watch lists. The TSA and its procedures were created after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Under the program, called Pre-Check, TSA embeds information in the bar code of the travelers' boarding passes when they check in.
TSA screeners will direct the cleared passengers to the expedited lane, and they will not have to remove jackets or display permitted liquids or gels from their carry-on bags.
Philadelphia is the 24th airport to get expedited screening. For now, it will be available only at the "C" checkpoint in the Terminal B and C concourses used by US Airways, Philadelphia's largest airline. Eligible fliers of the other participant carriers can choose to enter through the Terminal C checkpoint.
US Airways said Dividend Miles fliers can log in to their profile at usairways.com, and, if eligible, will see an opt-in button. Once passengers have opted in, the airline will share their travel information with TSA each time they fly.
"The program is part of TSA's attempt to move away from the one-size-fits-all approach to screening," said TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis. "We can comfortably give some passengers some expedited opportunities, given we know a little more about them, and they are willing to give us a little more information about themselves."
US Airways said it does not have information "on how customers become eligible. We only know that a select group of our preferred fliers may be selected by the TSA to opt-in to their Pre-Check program," the airline said.
Frequent fliers not chosen by TSA to participate in the Pre-Check program can still become eligible by applying to one of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection "trusted travelers" programs at the website globalentry.gov, TSA said.
Those programs provide expedited screening for U.S. citizens traveling internationally who have gone through background checks and interviews.
No customer is guaranteed expedited screening on every flight.
TSA will always incorporate random, unpredictable security measures "so that passengers can't always predict the exact screening experience they'll have every time they go to the airport," Davis said.
A passenger cleared for expedited screening on nine flights may, on the 10th, have to go through regular screening.
"Even if you opt in to the Pre-Check program, and you are deemed eligible, you will not 100 percent of the time be referred to the Pre-Check lane," Davis said. "It's not a guarantee every single time you fly."
So far, 2.5 million passengers traveling nationwide on American, Delta, United, US Airways, and Alaska airlines have experienced Pre-Check screening, which will be in place at 35 airports by the end of 2012.
Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org, a nonprofit airline consumer group, said, "I think it's a great program."
She said she had heard "mixed stories" because some Pre-Check-approved passengers "still end up having the whole screening."
"If you are randomly selected to have the full screening, you are not going to get away with just the Pre-Check," Hanni said.
"Also, we've had some folks complain that when they've shown up at TSA and said they were a member" of one of the U.S. Customs programs, "TSA didn't seem to know anything about it. They ended up going through the full pat-down or the body scans.
"We're hearing mixed results, but in theory it's a great program," Hanni said. "Any way that you can help make the process less intrusive and get people through security faster is a good thing."
Contact Linda Loyd
at 215-854-2831 or firstname.lastname@example.org.