What is it about flying that gets me down? The packing? The odd hours? Being so high up in the sky? Being so close to so many strangers? Well, for me, and probably a lot of travelers, what I really hate are the screening lines. Yes, security is important, but I have hard time remaining patient when I am herded into a single line and made to take off my shoes and jacket. Then not only am i standing there shoeless but the line is moving slower than molasses in December. Okay, maybe that is a bit of poetic exaggeration but I have yet to meet a person who enjoys screening lines. It’s a terrible feeling when you’re already running late and then have to stand in a slow-moving line.
The TSA PreCheck Program
If you are like me and the thought of those screening lines makes you cringe, or if you are a bit less dramatic and just travel a lot, then the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program may be for you. This program allows members to have expedited screening, so that they do not need to remove their shoes, belts or jackets, and can keep their laptop in the case. TSA PreCheck began in 2011, and was only available in 4 airports. The response was very positive, so the TSA decided to expand. In 2013 they opened the first PreCheck enrollment center and within a matter of months there were over 300 throughout the United States. It is now available at more than 150 airports, with 12 airlines.
The process to enroll is not hard. You will need to go to an enrollment center, but you can start the process online before going in if you would like to. You will need a current US passport, a birth certificate or other appropriate identification, and 85 dollars. The money is for a non-refundable fee that you have to pay, because at the enrollment center they take your fingerprints and run them through the FBI database, which costs the TSA money. You will not qualify for the program if you are convicted of certain crimes, from treason to identity theft, the list is a long one, but most Americans have not been convicted of these crimes. So if you are thinking about applying, take a look at the list just to make sure you have not done any of those things. Lorie Dankers, spokeswoman and public affairs manager for the TSA, said it well when she said, “Everybody knows their criminal history, so if you now you are not eligible do not apply.” You do not get your 85 dollars back, so do not pay if you know you will not be getting anything out of it.
So, what do get out of enrolling? Well, for one, the lines are shorter. Who doesn’t like shorter airport lines? You will be one of the “chosen ones”, so you get to go into a special line. And not only is the line shorter, but it moves so much faster, because you get to keep on your shoes, your jacket, your belt. Dankers said that while there are no exact numbers showing the time difference between the general screening and expedited screening, the PreCheck line is consistently faster. The morning that I talked with her the general lines at the Seattle airport had a wait of about 20 minutes, while the PreCheck line had a wait of about 2 minutes. “The time difference depends on the volume of traffic,” she said. The less passengers the smaller the difference between the two lines, but the PreCheck line is always faster. Kay Walker, a Spokane resident and member of the the TSA PreCheck program, is very happy that she and her husband signed up for it. Walker says, “It makes traveling and going through security so much easier, and the big difference is there is one less stress in a trip.” I don’t know about you, but I am all for as little stress as possible.
And not only is enrollment good for you personally, but it is really good for everyone. Dankers says, “The more people we can clear as low-risk flyer, the more focus we can put into flyers of unknown risk.” Not only will you get to your seat on the plane quicker, but you can fly with a little more confidence, because the time that the agents saved in getting you through the expedited screening they will put into making sure others who board that plane are not a threat.
So, if you fly a lot for school or work, or you just really do not like long screening lines or regretting you wore your mismatched Disney princess and Lego socks as you take off your shoes, you might consider applying for the program. Then when you walk into the airport, your heart will not drop as you look at the long line stretching out, but rather you will be able to do what Kay does: “I simply smile and recommend to anyone who might listen to me that they should consider the PreCheck clearance!”