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Originally published Friday, January 7, 2011 at 7:01 PM

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Special airport checkpoints urged for frequent fliers

As lines in the nation's airports grow longer with newly enhanced security measures, many travel groups suggest the best way to speed passengers...

Special checkpoints for frequent fliers?

As lines in the nation's airports grow longer with newly enhanced security measures, many travel groups suggest the best way to speed passengers through would be to create separate, faster checkpoints for frequent fliers, including business travelers.

It's an idea promoted by the International Air Transport Association, the trade group for the global airline industry, and the National Business Travel Association, the trade group for the U.S. business travel industry.

Under the proposal, frequent travelers who submit background information before arriving at the airport could bypass the full-body scanners and pat-down searches. Instead, they would undergo a quicker, less invasive security procedure. In a recent survey, 71 percent of the association's members said they would be willing to pay to undergo a one-time in-depth security check to qualify for the faster security screening.

Nico Melendez, a TSA spokesman, said the TSA tested separate security lines several years ago in a pilot program called Registered Traveler. After it ended, several private companies attempted to continue it in cooperation with the TSA, but those firms couldn't expand the program to enough airports to make a profit and ended the venture.

TSA ranked lowest on customer service

While the TSA is focused on security, many travelers are not delighted by its customer service. In a survey by the Consumer Travel Alliance, travelers were asked to pick the travel company or government agency that gave them the worst service in 2010. Nearly half of the 544 people surveyed pointed at the TSA.

The airline industry came in second, with 29 percent of those polled saying airlines treated travelers the worst. Car rental companies came in third with 10 percent, and hotels in fourth place with 5 percent, according to the survey of visitors to the group's website and the website of consumer advocate Christopher Elliott (a co-founder of the alliance and columnist at seattletimes.com/travel).

Online travel agencies fight

with American Airlines

American Airlines and online travel agencies have battled recently over the carrier's flight listings, with American pulling or agencies dropping its flight information in a dispute over commissions.

However, the airline is talking with Orbitz and Expedia about resuming the listings. Yet Sabre Holdings Corp., a provider of airfare data to travel agencies, said it will stop carrying American Airlines flight information as the dispute over online ticket sales escalates.

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American wants to reduce the cost of distributing tickets by requiring online travel agencies to get flight and fare information directly from the airline's computer system rather than through intermediaries called global distribution systems such as Sabre and Travelport, a part-owner of Orbitz. The intermediaries charge the airlines a commission of several dollars per ticket sold.

Record number of visitors at Glacier park

Glacier National Park's centennial year was also its busiest, as the park in Montana had more than 2.2 million visitors and held more than 130 centennial events in 2010. Glacier set a record with 2,216,109 visitors in the first 11 months of the year, breaking the old mark of 2,203,847 in all of 1983.

Seattle Times staff and news services

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