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Should Frequent Flyers Get to Cut in Airport Security Lines?

At many airports, security checkpoints have special speedier lanes for first- and business-class passengers, as well as members of frequent-flyer programs. Essentially, they allow elite flyers to move to the front of the airport security line, ahead of everyone holding economy tickets.

Elite flyers also enjoy priority boarding, of course. But is it fair for them to cut to the front of the line in a security checkpoint operated by a taxpayer-funded government agency?

Some think it’s not. In March, Nebraska’s Senator Ben Nelson introduced a bill to get rid of elite security lines at airports. The bill, called the “Air Passenger Fairness Act of 2012,” proposes to ban checkpoint lanes for preferred flyers.

According to the senator’s website, “Senator Nelson believes that using special lines to expedite the security screening process for some passengers is inappropriate. All passengers pay the same fee in their airline tickets to cover the cost of the (TSA) screenings regardless of ticket class.”

We asked consumer advocate Ed Perkins for his opinion on the matter. Perkins told us, “Inherently, any purely governmental service should be open to all at the same prices. But if an airline wants to pay the TSA extra to operate special VIP lines, that’s an airline’s call.

“There’s an interesting precedent here. Many years ago, membership in airport lounge clubs—Red Carpet, Admiral’s, and such—was a ‘free’ perk given arbitrarily to select customers, typically very frequent flyers, VIPs, etc. I got into three of them that way. But some attorney challenged the practice at the Civil Aeronautics Board (yes, it was that long ago), insisting that membership should be open to anyone who paid. The CAB agreed, so lounge clubs became paid membership operations.”

Should elite security checkpoints go the same route? Share your opinion in the comments!

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