NBC News correspondent
updated 6/14/2004 7:16:04 PM ET 2004-06-14T23:16:04

This summer, the United States Transportation Security Administration will begin trying out special, express security lines for some frequent fliers -- travelers like Jose Diaz, who fly often, are known to the airlines and would seem to be no real risk.

"I am probably spending about an hour a week, you know, just waiting in line at an airport and potentially I could see the program being wonderful," says Diaz.

Starting in July, the government will give it a three-month trial, first in Minneapolis, then at Boston, Los Angeles, Houston and Washington airports.

Fliers averaging two or more trips a month could ask for an extensive background check and, once cleared, would get a "registered traveler" card with a biometric identifier from a fingerprint scan or a measurement of the eye.

There would be a fee for the card, but it would let them use a streamlined security lane, avoid taking off their shoes or unpacking laptops, as well as secondary searches -- unless they set off the metal detector.

Airlines, which make big money off frequent fliers, have clamored for this kind of offering.

"We're excited about the program," says Jim May, president and CEO of Air Transport Association, as well as the industry's chief lobbyist. "It's voluntary, it allows TSA to expedite those passengers that pose the least risk and thereby increase the processing for everybody along the way."

Still, some ask if it's elitist to single out these mostly business travelers. Is it fair to offer them special treatment, while leaving ordinary mom and pop travelers who fly only occasionally to suffer through the longer lines? Maybe so, the TSA is saying, to make the system operate efficiently.

With travel rebounding and airports becoming crowded again, waiting times for security are growing. For instance, there was a wait of 75 minutes in Atlanta on a recent weekday morning, so some say a registered travel program may be just in the nick of time.

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