TSA Pre-Check has been around just over four years now. It is a way to expedite your movement through security at most US airports. Designed primarily for the business traveler, it provides three bonuses we all can enjoy: (usually) shorter, faster moving lines; you don’t have to take your computer or other electronics out of your bag; and you can keep your shoes and jacket on. Frequent fliers such as myself have customarily been gifted this benefit by the airline with whom we have status. But when I fly on another airline, I have to join the long line and start undressing!
Even if you’re an infrequent traveler, you may have enjoyed the TSA Pre-Check experience on a past flight. It’s been given out randomly for the past few years so that more people could sample the program. Ultimately, it’s a subscription service offered by the TSA. The more who experience it and like it, the more subscriptions they will sell. It’s marketing at its best!
Of course, something that is designed to keep “the friendly skies” safe should, perhaps, require that everyone going through the expedited (and therefore arguably not as thorough) screening process be worthy of the benefit. As subscribers increase, they are growing frustrated by those in the line who don’t really know where they are or why, nor what the line requires. They slow the process, resulting in the expedited line sometimes being slower than the general line. TSA has put into motion new regulations that will decrease and eventually eliminate not only the random gifts of Pre-Check by US airlines, but also offering it as a benefit of status to their frequent fliers (USA Today – 10/19/2015).
I decided it was past time for me to find out the process for getting permanent Pre-Check status. Like most good things, it began with a Google search which quickly took me to https://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck/apply. The application process is simple and straight-forward. Then you must answer a battery of questions primarily pertaining to whether you’ve been involved in any sort of a felony situation in the past 7 years. Read the questions carefully! They are worded so that sometimes the “right” answer is yes and sometimes it is no.
Next, I was directed to a location where the face-to-face part of the process would happen. Despite rumors I’ve heard that this can be done downtown, in Folsom or in the Sunrise or Country Club Mall areas, the website showed the only “local” office being in West Sacramento (across Jefferson Street from Club Pheasant in the Lowe’s parking lot). The next closest location is in Stockton. I selected a date and time that suited me, and received an e-mail confirmation.
My appointment was yesterday. Despite the fact five people sat in the IdentoGO, USA office when I arrived, with proof of my appointment I was ushered right in. They checked my driver’s license, scanned my passport and collected $85. (Credit cards only – they don’t take cash!) I reconfirmed my answers on the online application. Then they electronically took all ten fingerprints. No ink! I was out in 10 minutes.
Though I was given a card on the way out saying TSA would notify me of my acceptance (or not) within 45 days, they also gave me a website where I can monitor my status. They said a Known Traveler Number (KTN) is usually assigned within 7 days. Sometimes it happens in as fast as 24 hours. Once I get that number, I will provide it to all the airlines on whom I fly, whether frequently or not, and enjoy expedited screening. They did stress this action must be taken in advance. Ticket counter agents cannot add the benefit on the day of travel.
One last thing – the subscription period is five full years. Even if you’re a relatively infrequent traveler, I think this is a pretty small price to pay for an expedited airport experience. Your thoughts?