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TSA Pre-Check: Is It Worth It?

by Scott Mayerowitz
Saturday May 14, 2016

Fliers facing extremely long airport security lines this spring and summer might want to consider becoming members of the Transportation Security Administration's PreCheck, an expedited screening program that can speed travelers through the checkpoint.

Q: What is PreCheck?

A: The program allows previously vetted fliers to use special lanes at the checkpoint. Shoes, belts and light jackets stay on. Laptops and liquids stay in bags. And these fliers go through standard metal detectors rather than the explosive-detecting full-body scanners most pass through.

Q: How do fliers join?

A: Travelers get PreCheck if they are a member of one of the Customs and Border Protection's expedited entry programs - Global Entry, Nexus and Sentri - or by joining directly with the TSA. Membership in these programs ranges from $50 to $100 for five years. Travelers can fill out an application online and it then takes some time for the government to approve the application and schedule an in-person interview, typically at an airport. Those without a passport can just get PreCheck for $85.

Q: How do the airlines know who is a member?

A: Once approved, travelers get a "known traveler number." If they enter that in frequent flier programs or while making a reservation online, the airline knows of their PreCheck qualification. Then, when a boarding pass is generated a check is made with the TSA and usually PreCheck is granted and added to the document.

Q: Is it good on all airlines?

A: Most major carriers participate but airlines such as Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines have yet to upgrade their computer systems to allow PreCheck. Here are the airlines currently participating: Allegiant Airlines, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, OneJet, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country, United Airlines, Virgin America and WestJet.

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