Have you ever been waiting in a long line at the airport, then looked over to see someone breezing right up to a nearby TSA worker who isn’t serving anyone in your own line? Or maybe you’ve noticed the “TSA Pre√” signs, but for some reason always get directed into another, vastly more crowded area?
Turns out the people in those lines aren’t just lucky, they’re smart. Specifically, they’ve enrolled the TSA Pre√ program (pronounced “pre-check”), which affords participants in the privilege of using almost always-shorter security lines. It also means not having to take off belts and shoes, among other things.
So far more than 1 million people have signed up for this program. This is how you can become one of them:
1. Be a US citizen with a relatively clean record.
2. Apply at any location by paying a one-time non-refundable $85 application fee, showing a valid passport or alternative required documents, taking your fingerprints, and filling out an application. There are hundreds of locations all over the US. Some are located in airports.
3. Wait two to three weeks. If accepted into the Pre√ program, you’ll receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) valid for five years. Helpful hint: add your KTN as a contact in your phone, so you always have it handy if needed.
4. Make sure to include your KTN when booking travel so that it will be printed on your boarding pass — your KTN is what allows you access to the Pre√ lines.
5. Arrive at airport and look for signs that indicate TSA Pre√ lines. A TSA agent will check your boarding pass to make sure it has a KTN on it. Enjoy a comparatively shorter line and relatively hassle-free experience through security.
A few things to remember:
- You can pre-enroll — i.e. filling out the forms ahead of time online — and schedule to do everything else an appointment online.
- Ten major airlines participate in the TSA Pre√ program: Air Canada, Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Sun Country, United, US, and Virgin. If you’re flying on someone else, you’re out of luck.
- Not all airports are equipped with Pre√ lines.
- As the number of travelers with KTN increases, so will the length of the Pre√ lines. That being said, it should still be quicker than regular security.
- If you have any additional questions, check out the handy TSA Pre√ FAQ page.
The TSA has also put together this video, which is light on actual information but heavy on cheesiness:
— Laura Rowley