A new passenger screening program to make check-in more convenient for certain travelers is being expanded to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and is expected to be in operation by the end of 2012, the government said Wednesday.

A new passenger screening program to make check-in more convenient for certain travelers is being expanded to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and is expected to be in operation by the end of 2012, the government said Wednesday.

Eligible passengers will no longer have to remove their shoes and belts before they board flights in Seattle’s airport, as well as in other 27 major U.S. airports where the program will be implemented.

The Transportation Security Administration’s program, already in a test phase in seven other airports, is the Obama administration’s first attempt at a passenger screening program responsive to frequent complaints that the government is not using common sense when it screens all passengers at airports in the same way.

Under the new program, eligible travelers have the option to volunteer more personal information about themselves so that the government can vet them for security purposes before they arrive at airport checkpoints.

“Good, thoughtful, sensible security by its very nature facilitates lawful travel and legitimate commerce,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.

The program works this way: Participating travelers will walk through a dedicated lane at airport security checkpoints. They will provide the TSA officer with a specially marked boarding pass. A machine will read the barcode, and travelers deemed “low-risk,” will likely be allowed to keep on belts, shoes and jackets and leave laptops and liquids in bags when being screened.

Not everyone is eligible to participate in the program, which is already being tested at airports in Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Eligible travelers are some of those who participate in American and Delta airlines’ frequent flier programs, as well as travelers in three other trusted traveler programs, which do charge fees to participate. About 336,000 passengers have been screened through the program since the testing began last year, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

By the end of 2012, the government expects select passengers in frequent flier programs for US Airways, United and Alaska Airlines to be eligible to participate.

“We are pleased to expand this important effort, in collaboration with our airline and airport partners, as we move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to a more intelligence-driven, risk-based transportation security system,” said TSA chief John Pistole.

Pistole has said he hopes to eventually test the program at all airports and with all airlines around the country, but that might take years.

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