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New speedy airport screening service starts at MacArthur

MacArthur Airport is joining others in offering PreCheck, a TSA service that allows passengers to be screened in a separate lane without having to remove their shoes, belts and laptops. Southwest Airlines and US Airways allow these checks, which cost $85 for five years of the service. The Ronkonkoma airport's other two carriers, Allegiant Air and PenAir, do not currently offer PreCheck. Videojournalist: Steve Pfost (Dec. 27, 2013)

A special service that allows passengers to escape some of the hassles of airport security and get to departure gates faster is now available at Long Island MacArthur Airport, officials announced Friday.

PreCheck, a perk offered through the Transportation Security Administration, lets participants enter a separate line while keeping their shoes, belt and a lightweight jacket on as they pass through metal detectors, said Daniel Ronan, TSA security director for MacArthur, LaGuardia and Westchester County airports.

Laptops and approved liquids can also stay inside luggage as they're screened through an X-ray machine.

"We know the vast majority of passengers pose no threat to security," Ronan said. "We're trying to make airport security as effective and efficient as possible by treating people we know more about in a different way."

The application fee is $85, good for five years. Applicants must provide their name, birth date, residence history, Social Security number and a set of fingerprints for a criminal-background check.

PreCheck passengers can bypass slower full-body scans -- as long as they don't set off conventional metal detectors, but they may still be subject to a random hand swipe to check for explosive powders.

About 35 percent of the passengers who flew out of MacArthur on Southwest Airlines and US Airways this week used the new service, officials said. Allegiant Air and PenAir haven't started using PreCheck.

The program was first tested in 2011 and is currently in 115 airports throughout the country. It started at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports last summer.

At the Ronkonkoma airport yesterday afternoon, Thomas Meigel, 74, pushed his wife in a wheelchair through the PreCheck line.

The East Quogue couple, catching a flight to Naples, Fla., made it through security in under a minute.

"That was so easy!" exclaimed Lorraine Meigel, 74, who is recovering from surgery.

"I wore my easy shoes with no laces because it's normally a hassle. I can't lift my hands over my head for the body scan, so they'd have to pat everything, even my hair."

In the regular security line, Jacquie Coven, 46, of Lake Grove, juggled her boots in one hand while she threw her coat and carry-on luggage to the floor so she could explain the liquids in her bag to a TSA agent.

"I'm used to this now, so I don't think about it," Coven said with a laugh. "But I'm sure it would be a nice thing to just go right through."

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