My very short review of TSA Precheck: GET IT, IT’S AWESOME. REALLY.
Now for a longer review.
Matt and I recently applied for Global Entry, which allows pre-approved members access to expedited customs and immigration processing when entering the US. That’s really nice, and the technology is cool, but the main reason we wanted that is because it also entitles users to membership in TSA Precheck. That’s the domestic version, which gives you access to expedited security screening at 40+ airports (with more being added).
For Global Entry, you have to pay a $100 application fee, tell them every detail about your life, and if you’re approved, you’re invited to an interview at a nearby airport a couple weeks later. While the interview seemed intimidating, it wasn’t. They already have your background check, so they ask a few basic questions, take your picture and fingerprints, and show you how to use the customs kiosk. While it takes another few weeks to be issued your Global Entry card, you get your TSA Precheck number right away.
We had our interviews Wednesday, and went home to update our Friday reservations with our new numbers (they’re called Trusted Traveler numbers by the airlines). The boarding passes printed with “TSA PRECHECK” at the top, so we knew we were set.
Here’s how it works:
When you get to the airport, head to the Trusted Traveler lane at security. You’ll know it because it’s the one that doesn’t have 200 people standing in it. (It’s usually the same lane used by super-elite frequent flier members.) Scan your boarding pass on the scanner and if it beeps, the agent will wave you through. Go through security. Keep your shoes on, your jacket on, and your toiletries in your bag. (I think they only think they were requesting was that people empty their pockets.) Grab your bags and celebrate not having to rush to your flight! The end.
To summarize, the PROS:
- It’s super-fast. Like 2 minutes at most fast.
- You don’t have to take your shoes off.
- You can keep your laptop and toiletries in your bag (though you do still have to adhere to the 3-1-1 rule, because they may check).
- You don’t have to take off your jacket, belt, watch, jewelry, etc.
- At the airports we visited, they were using the oldschool magnetic scanner, and not the I-can-see-you-naked scanner.
- If you put your Trusted Traveler number in your airline profile, it’s automatically added to your boarding pass automatically.
- It’s not available at all airports yet, but they’re adding new ones all the time. Here’s a current list.
- It’s only usable if you’re flying a major U.S. airline. Currently that list includes American, Delta, United, US Air, and Alaska. If you’re flying other airlines, it’s regular security for you.
- TSA Precheck itself is invite-only for very frequent fliers, at the request of the airline. However, you can get around this by signing up for Global Entry, as I noted above.
- There’s a possibility that you’ll get caught in a random check and have to go through normal security.
- If you’re one of the tinfoil hat types, this isn’t for you. Global Entry runs background checks daily, and you’re given government-issued tracking numbers.
- You can’t murder anyone or commit any other felony, or you’re out of the program. But there are other reasons you shouldn’t commit a felony, too.
Matt and I made it from the parking lot, on the shuttle, and through security in under 20 minutes on Friday, and security flying back from DC was equally fast. If you’re a frequent traveler, this is absolutely worth the money.