Ready for Applications: TSA’s PreCheck Program Expands to Public

Good news: The TSA's program to ease security issues for frequent travelers gets a wider rollout starting this month, with application sites at major U.S. airports in the works.

Good news: The TSA’s program to ease security issues for frequent travelers gets a wider rollout starting this month, with application sites at major U.S. airports in the works.

In case you find yourself flying to Indianapolis this holiday season, you may want to spend a little extra time at the airport. It could save you a bunch of time at airport security checkpoints in the future.

Indianapolis International Airport is the site of the first application center for the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program, which helps travelers avoid many delay-causing security headaches. More details:

PreCheck perks: If you’re a heavy domestic business traveler, the benefits might make it worthwhile. Among other things, travelers in the TSA’s PreCheck program will be able to leave their belts and shoes on and their laptops and allowed liquids in their carry-ons as they go through TSA security checkpoints. While they still will have to go through a scanner and have their luggage scanned, they’ll be free from most of the small annoyances of security checks. The program, launched in 2011 but previously available by invitation only, is available at 102 of the country’s 450 airports.

Who’s it for? Previously, the PreCheck program has been open only to members of some airline frequent flier programs and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program, which expedites the customs process upon reentry into the country for those who travel abroad. Though Global Entry enrollment recently hit 1 million, joining the program to gain automatic TSA PreCheck enrollment was less desirable for travelers who take only domestic trips, as it requires applicants to have a current passport. But the new setup, which allows U.S. citizens to apply directly for PreCheck, does not. For those approved, enrollment costs is $85 and lasts for five years. (To compare, Global Check’s application fee is $100 and valid over the same period.) However, those who apply must have a clean criminal record and will be required to go through a background check to ensure eligibility for the program.

Travel associations positive: U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow said in a statement that PreCheck, Global Entry, and similar programs effectively balance convenience and security. “We still have a lot of work to do before travel to and within the U.S. is all it can be,” Dow said. “But I, for one, am optimistic that we are working toward a golden age of travel, with all of the attendant economic benefits.” The Global Business Travel Association, meanwhile, stated its support for the move in a press release but criticized a proposal to increase the airport security fee on airline tickets (see sidebar for more details).

If you won’t find yourself in Indianapolis anytime soon, there’s good news:  TSA plans to open application centers in Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, DC, by the end of the year. And those who aren’t nearby can start the pre-application process online.

Approved TSA PreCheck users can keep their shoes on when going through security. (Creatas/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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