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Originally published Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 7:00 PM

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It's a no-go for some hoping to join TSA fast lane

The Transportation Security Administration has said that it will operate PreCheck on a per-flight basis, meaning it still will select some travelers for full screening.

Seattle Times travel writer

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Now that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has opened its PreCheck fast-pass screening lanes at some U.S. airports, what percentage of preapproved travelers actually gets to walk through security without removing jackets and shoes, or taking liquids and laptops out of carry-ons?

Those eligible to apply for PreCheck — for now either high-mileage frequent fliers invited by their airline, or members of the Global Entry, Sentri or Nexus expedited U.S./Canadian/Mexican border-crossing programs — supply personal information in advance that the government uses to prescreen for flight risk.

TSA has said from the get-go that it will operate PreCheck on a per-flight basis, meaning it still will select some travelers for full screening (you don't find out until you get to the airport, where an agent scans a bar code on your boarding pass).

Anecdotal evidence suggests some are ending up in the slow lane more often than they expected.

"One of the agents said that of those eligible for PreCheck, only about 50 percent get the OK. An interesting statistic, but is it accurate?" asks one Alaska Airlines MVP Gold frequent flier. He's flown out of Seattle's Sea-Tac Airport three times since being approved but says he's been able to use the special lane once.

"My partner is also eligible," he wrote in an email. "Between us, we've had six shots at getting OK'd, and only once did one of us (myself) get to go through."

TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers wouldn't comment on the 50 percent figure but says she understands the frustration and urges patience.

"It's important for everyone to realize that PreCheck is really still in the pilot stage at 15 airports right now," Dankers said. TSA plans to have PreCheck in place at 28 airports by the end of this year.

As it stands, only passengers flying on three airlines — Delta, American and Alaska — can use PreCheck, depending on the airport. In Seattle, only those booked on Alaska can use the lane set up at Checkpoint 5 in the north end of the terminal.

My guess is that the best way to increase your odds for hassle-free screening is to apply for Global Entry, Nexus or Sentri. The government gathers far more personal information for these programs, so likely feels more confident about applicants' identities. Frequent fliers supply only their name, gender and date of birth.

I get my Nexus card next month, so will report firsthand after that.

In the meantime, send me an email about your experience with PreCheck. Include your full name and the city where you live. I'll share some of the responses in a future column.

Senior screening

Good news if you're 75 and older. TSA no longer requires you to take off your shoes and jackets when going through security. You'll also be allowed a second pass through the full-body scanners if needed, a change expected to reduce physical pat-downs.

The best exotic hotel

The "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is a film that follows seven English retirees to India, where they end up in a dilapidated hotel with creaky plumbing and no phones.

I left the theater with a warm heart and memories of spending a few days in Jaipur, where part of the movie was made. A motorcycle taxi took me to a busy market so crowded there was hardly room to walk. There I bought a huge plastic bag of tea for $1 and watched as an elephant marched down the street, oblivious to a sea of cars, motorbikes, cows and rickshaws.

My budget didn't allow for a stay in one of India's true best exotic hotels, but in New Delhi one day I had lunch at the Taj Palace.

From the elegant washrooms to the lobby furnished with cushioned chairs, it was everything the Marigold was not.

If you happen to be in India through July 31, the Taj chain is offering three nights for the price of two at hotels such as the Rambagh Palace, the former residence of the Maharajah of Jaipur. The special offer brings the rate on a garden-view room down from $213 to $142.

Check in here, and like the English retirees, you might decide never to leave. Details at www.tajhotels.com.

Best/worst chains

Closer to home and worth a look is Consumer Reports' latest ranking of the nation's 44 biggest hotel chains. Based on a survey of readers, the Econo Lodge and Americas Best Value Inn chains ranked among the worst when it came to value, upkeep, comfort and service.

Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham rated the highest. Also ranking near the top was Embassy Suites, my favorite for its free breakfasts and afternoon cocktail hours.

Have a question or comment on travel? Contact Carol Pucci: cpucci@seattletimes.com.

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