In the news:
Take a closer look: TSA PreCheck explained
Here’s a list of frequently asked questions (with answers) about the program aimed at speeding frequent fliers through airports.
Detroit Free Press
Northwest travel guides
TSA PreCheck is debuting at 60 new airports and expanding at the 40 airports that already have it.
But what the heck is PreCheck? Before you decide whether to apply, make sure you understand how the program works and whether it’s for you. If you fly a lot domestically, I’d recommend it.
What it is: The Transportation Security Administration PreCheck lanes are fast security lanes at certain airports that speed you through security without the need to take off your shoes or other hassles.
Who can use it: Until now, only certain elite-level airline passengers and people who have Global Entry or Nexus trusted traveler status (see more below). Later this year, anyone will be able to apply for PreCheck clearance, the TSA announced Sept. 4.
Which airlines participate: Not all airlines cooperate in this program, which means that if you fly an airline like Spirit or Southwest, you can’t use the lane. Participating airlines are Delta, American, United, US Airways, Alaska, Hawaiian and Virgin America. Southwest and Jet Blue are preparing to join the program. Some airlines like Delta provide a helpful feature — when you print out your boarding pass, it tells you if you can use the PreCheck lane.
How to apply: The application is not ready yet, but it will cost $85. It will involve an online application plus a personal visit and fingerprint scan at an enrollment center. Clearance is good for 5 years. You do not need to have a passport to apply. Eligibility rules are not ready, but a felony record disqualifies you for other trusted traveler programs, and I’m guessing that will be the same case here.
Where to get the application: Check tsa.gov/tsa-precheck for updates.
How airlines know you have PreCheck clearance: The TSA will give you a known traveler number. Each time you make a reservation, enter the number. You also can add your known traveler number to your airline frequent flier profile, and it will be automatically added to reservations you make.
Who can go with you: Children 12 and under will be able to use the line if the adult they are traveling with has PreCheck clearance.
Why the TSA is expanding the program: To make its job easier. People who submit to the PreCheck application process basically are getting a security clearance, so the government knows a lot about you before you fly. This may creep out some civil libertarians, but given that privacy is a disappearing asset, it may not bother you.
What it won’t do: TSA PreCheck clearance is good only at certain domestic airports for passengers headed to domestic or international destinations.
What it also won’t do: Guarantee easy screening. There is a random quality about it, so even those who qualify to use the lane may sometimes be directed to the regular security lane.
How PreCheck differs from other trusted traveler programs: U.S. Customs and Border Protection has one called Global Entry ($100, www.globalentry.gov) that I recommend for anyone who travels internationally. Global entry is good at both TSA PreCheck lanes and at U.S. Immigration/Customs when returning from abroad, where you can use a kiosk to clear customs faster. Global Entry also is good at Nexus lanes coming into the United States from Canada.
Speaking of Nexus: Nexus is another clearance program familiar to travelers who drive back and forth to Canada a lot. Nexus also can be used at TSA PreCheck lanes and at airport immigration, provided the government has your fingerprints on file. (www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/trusted_traveler/nexus_prog/ )
The downside of PreCheck: If millions get clearance, it is possible it could make PreCheck lines as long as regular lines. One assumes the TSA would jigger the configuration of its lines depending on the number of passengers with PreCheck.
So should you apply? Only you can decide if it’s right for you.