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Passengers on Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines, the nation’s top two discount carriers, soon will have access to the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program, a development that should significantly reduce security wait times for some customers.
Frontier should be read by the end of July, while Spirit is preparing to join in the fall, representatives for the two carriers said this week.
Frontier and Spirit and the only two large U.S. airlines that do not participate in the TSA’s expedited screening program. Passengers who pay $85 and pass a background check need not remove their shoes, laptop, belts, or liquids at checkpoints. Lines are usually shorter and tend to move faster than regular queues.
Today, passengers on Frontier and Spirit cannot receive expedited security, even if they have paid the fee and have been approved by the government. The problem is technology: Frontier and Spirit are the only U.S. airlines to use software from Minneapolis-based Navitaire to run their operations, and thus far, that platform has not been able to communicate the necessary information with the TSA.
Navitaire is expected to have the problem sorted out by July 31, and Frontier may start allowing passengers to use Precheck that day. Spirit will wait longer, spokesman Paul Berry said.
“While Navitaire has stated they will be ready by July 31, that’s right in the middle of the busy summer travel season,” he said. “We don’t want risk any technical problems to our reservation system during this season.”
Precheck is popular among business travelers, who value the time they save, and joining may help Frontier and Spirit carry a slightly higher proportion of non-leisure traffic. Businesses travelers often pay higher fares than customers on vacation. Neither discount airline carries much business traffic, but that could change over time, as it has in Europe, where Ryanair is making a play for more corporate travelers.
“Our customers said they wanted PreCheck and we listened,” Frontier spokesman Jim Faulkner said. “It was an easy way to help take the stress out of travel for some of our customers.”
The TSA’s Precheck program has not been as successful as the agency predicted. The TSA had set a goal of having 25 million passengers enrolled by now, but admitted recently that fewer than half that number have joined. Security and travel experts have blamed the TSA for failing to publicize the program, and some have said the enrollment process is too expensive and time-consuming.
But the TSA has stuck with PreCheck, and last month announced it had signed up four other new airlines: Etihad Airways, Aeromexico, Cape Air, and Seaborne Airlines. In all 16 carriers now participate.