Security lines are growing at airports across the country. Last year, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened over 72 million passengers at U.S airports. Most travelers follow general guidelines to be at the airport at least 2 hours ahead of the scheduled departure time for domestic flights (3 hours for International flights). These early arrival requirements lead many to feel stressed out and hassled just to make their flights.
With so many people, it’s smart to find any advantage you can to find the extra time you need to board a flight.
For those who do not already have it, the TSA Pre✓® program provides a bright spot for those who fear summer travel delays. This program speeds up the time it takes you to get through airport security.
What Is TSA Pre✓?
TSA Pre✓ is an expedited security program aimed at helping travelers enjoy a more convenient passage through the airport. If you apply and are selected by the TSA to participate, you’ll be directed to a dedicated screening lane where you may not need to remove your shoes, jacket, belt, or your laptop or liquids from your bags.
TSA reports that on average, PreCheck travelers wait less than five minutes to pass through security.
PreCheck is one of five trusted traveler programs for flights departing from U.S. Airports. Other programs include Global Entry (for international travel), SENTRI, and NEXUS. To find the best program for you, use the Department of Homeland Security’s interactive Trusted Traveler tool.
Does TSA Pre✓Cover International Travel?
PreCheck only involves domestic departures where TSA agents have jurisdiction and TSA PreCheck lanes are already set up. It includes departures from the U.S. to other countries on participating airlines, but having TSA Pre✓will not help you when you’re returning to the U.S. from abroad, or when you’re going through the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol screening.
What Airports and Airlines Participate in TSA Pre✓?
There are over 200 airports and 67 airlines that are currently part of the TSA Pre✓program nationwide. Use this map to check availability.
What Are The Benefits of TSA Pre✓?
Frequent travelers with PreCheck enjoy moving fast through security—they don’t have to stop and remove their shoes, belts or light jackets. Or take out and separate their laptops, liquids or gel products from the rest of their baggage for screening. This is especially beneficial on holidays or other busy travel days. It’s a boon for frequent travelers, as well as disabled passengers.
Even with PreCheck’s perks, randomly selected travelers will still be pulled aside for extra screening, but the overall time through security will still be shorter.
How Does The Program Work?
Travelers interested in PreCheck need to apply online for pre-approval. You’ll need to plan this in advance of any trip– it’s not something you can just pay for as you sit in an hours’ long security line at the airport.
Once pre-approved, you’ll then need to schedule an in-person appointment—including a background check and fingerprinting at an enrollment center. The interview usually takes about 10 minutes–it’s quick and mostly for verification. You can expect questions about yourself and your travel.
After the appointment, you’ll be notified if you are accepted into the program. Approved travelers receive a Known Traveler Number. Participating airlines print this number on your boarding pass if you are eligible for TSA Pre✓ on that flight. Once the pass is scanned, you will be directed to the shorter PreCheck lane for boarding.
You can also add your PreCheck information to your frequent flyer accounts so it’ll be automatically included when you book flights.
Your membership will be active for 5 years. After that, you’ll need to renew your membership if you wish to keep it.
To be eligible, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and pass the background check. Additionally, there are several criminal offenses and factors that can disqualify you.
If you are flying with an airline that is not a partner of the program, you will not be able to utilize the program. Fortunately, TSA continues to partner with more and more airlines.
Lastly, any children 12 or younger are allowed use the PreCheck line with you without charge. This means for any kids 13 or older, you’ll need to enroll them separately (with an additional fee).
How Much Does TSA Pre✓Cost?
A TSA Pre✓ application fee costs $85 and is good for 5 years. If you are rejected from the program, you will not receive a refund. TSA Pre✓ is complimentary if you have Global Entry.
Does TSA Pre✓Guarantee Expedited Passage through Security?
The TSA selects individuals for expedited screening, and uses unpredictable security measures throughout the airport. No individual can be guaranteed expedited screening. However, those enrolled in TSA Pre✓will almost always receive expedited screening where available, as long as you’re at an airport that offers it and flying with a partner airline.
Resources: Department of Homeland Security, Forbes Media LLC, Smarter Travel Media LLC, Upgraded Points™, LLC, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Inc.