In one of its first acts since taking over responsibility for airline security on Sunday, the Transportation Security Administration said it was ending airlines' efforts to allow certain passengers, primarily frequent flier and those paying first-class or business-class fares, to avoid lengthy waits.
"One of the policy changes we have made is to have no special lines at checkpoints," agency spokesman Jim Mitchell said. "We need to be able to take care of all passengers and we need to have a standard way of dealing with security."
Following Sept. 11, passengers were told to arrive two hours before their flights for more stringent security checks. In response, several airlines, including American, Continental and United, set up separate lines for their most coveted passengers.
"The lines have value, not only for those who use them but those who don't," United spokesman Chris Brathwaite said. "They recognize those customers who are most frequently at airports, and at the same time keep those people from being in the other lanes, which shortens the lines for everybody."
The head of an airline passengers' advocacy group said the government's decision to eliminate these lines could hurt efforts to regain the traffic that carriers lost after the attacks.
"At a time when we're trying to get business travelers back on the airplanes, this could be a big negative because of the hassle factor that many business travelers complained of before these priority lines were put in place," said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association. "The airlines need these business travelers to return to profitability."
By Jonathan D. Salant © MMII The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed