Security lines at airports seem to get longer and more complicated every year. It’s become standard practice to remove shoes, belts, and jackets while waiting in line, but that’s unfortunately not the end of the complications.
People who are carrying laptops and other electronic equipment are required to remove these items from their bags and place them in trays to go through X-ray machines. It’s very easy for small, expensive items to be forgotten or get stolen during this confusing and distracting process. Large families can also delay this process for other passengers, which can be stressful in when running late for a flight.
Moreover, it’s becoming increasingly common to undergo an intrusive body scan instead of going through a metal detector. If a traveler doesn’t want to have a body scan, then they are subject to a pat down, which can be uncomfortable for many individuals.
Fortunately, there is an alternative that can make flying easier and more convenient for U.S. travelers.
What is TSA Precheck?
This program run by the federal Transportation Security Administration pre-screens applicants for streamlined processing at airport security checkpoints. People who enroll in the program fill out an application, provide fingerprints and undergo a background check in order to receive a Known Traveler Number.
People who have a Known Traveler Number, or KTN, don’t necessarily have to stand in the usual security line at participating U.S. airports. Instead, they go to a special security lane that features expedited processing and fewer hoops to jump through.
It’s essential that people who are enrolled in this program make certain to enter their KTN at the time of flight booking. This ensures that the passenger will be able to go through the expedited line if one is available and open.
U.S. citizens and people who are legal, permanent residents all may be eligible to participate in this program. Applicants must not have any criminal convictions or customs violations on their record to qualify.
TSA Precheck Benefits and Perks
Anyone who goes through the TSA PreCheck enrollment process will get plenty of benefits and perks. Going through security at the airport has only gotten more stressful and time consuming as the years go by. Many restrictions must be remembered, and it’s easy for travelers to feel like they have to unpack and undress just to get through the line.
The beauty of PreCheck enrollment is that it does away with many of those requirements and restrictions. People with this designation typically don’t have to remove their shoes, belt, and jacket. Their laptops usually stay in their bags, and so do any liquids. What’s more, these travelers don’t have to wait for a full body scan; they quickly go through a regular metal detector instead.
The lines for the TSA PreCheck are also generally are far shorter than those for “regular” security. Travelers benefit from having five years of enrollment for just a one-time application fee of $85. In fact, many credit cards will actually cover the cost of the application as a perk for card holders.
Participating Airlines and Locations
More than 150 airports now offer the benefit of lanes for TSA pre-approved travelers. That number continues to expand all the time, but travelers may find that expedited processing is not available at some smaller airports, or that these lanes are only open for certain hours in airports where they are available. People who have gone through the TSA PreCheck enrollment process will find the service available for most domestic flights, while an increasing number of international flights are becoming eligible for the service as well.
Certain airlines have partnered with the TSA to ease the process of passengers getting through airport security lines. Travelers are more likely to find TSA PreCheck locations when they fly from, to and through airports that are serviced by these airlines. Currently, the number of participating airlines includes about 50 carriers. Some of them are known around the world, while others are specialty carriers which serve only a few select destinations. Here is a list of just a few of the participating airlines:
- American Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Alaska Airlines
- United Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
- Southwest Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Frontier Airlines
- Virgin America
How to apply for TSA Precheck
Beginning the process of enrollment is a snap. All that’s needed to apply for TSA PreCheck is an Internet-enabled computer. Simply fill out the application at the TSA website, which requires basic information like name, address, phone number, gender and birth date. Additionally, applicants will have to provide information about their place of birth and citizenship. Straightforward questions such as maiden and previous names used are asked next. Then, the applicant enters a basic description including height, weight, hair color and eye color. The application asks questions regarding citizenship and criminal convictions next to determine eligibility. In the last questions, the applicant is directed to choose two forms of identification that will be taken to the subsequent interview.
The applicant may then schedule an interview at one of 380 PreCheck Enrollment Centers. After entering location information, a list of available appointments will appear. The applicant selects one, and then the individual must arrive at the enrollment center at the appointed day and time. The TSA PreCheck cost is $85, which is charged at the time the application is submitted. This fee is non-refundable, even if the applicant is rejected or ultimately decides not to proceed with enrollment.
The visit to the PreCheck Enrollment Center is relatively quick and easy. Agents take the applicant’s fingerprints and conduct a brief background check. If everything comes back clear, the applicant will be approved. Applicants choose to receive their Known Traveler Number either online or in the mail. This number is then entered when booking flights to receive the benefits of the program.