TAMPA — Select fliers will now be able to get through security at Tampa International Airport without taking off their belts and shoes, opening up their laptops or taking liquids out of their carry-on luggage.
The Transportation Security Administration's prescreening program starts today at Tampa International. It will create a special line for Delta flights at Airside E to allow passengers who already have passed a background check to more quickly pass through security.
Delta is the airport's second-largest carrier, handling nearly 250,000 arriving and departing passengers a year.
Eventually, TSA may open more expedited security lines for other domestic carriers at Tampa International, though no timetable has been announced.
The initiative is part of TSA's "risk-based security" program, said agency spokeswoman Sari Koshetz. "TSA precheck helps strengthen security by separating out low-risk individuals and those we can learn about through prescreening," she said. "We can then focus our resources on travelers about whom we know less."
Tampa International and Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina will become the 17th and 18th airports to join the program, which the TSA said has already screened 1.7 million passengers nationally.
Tampa International is the third Florida airport to participate, after Miami and Orlando.
The precheck program includes only domestic flights and only U.S. citizens are eligible. There are two ways for fliers to become eligible: They can apply to join the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler programs through www.globalentry.gov. Or if they're frequent fliers, their airlines can invite them into the program.
The Trusted Traveler program requires applicants to go through a thorough background check and personal interview. However a passenger becomes eligible, that information will be inserted into the barcode of the boarding pass. The passenger's bags will still be screened as usual, and subjected to random checks. But TSA cautioned that joining the program doesn't mean a flier will get be sent to the expedited security line every time.