Faster Security: TSA Answers Passenger Questions about PreCheck

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know the TSA has now opened up its expedited security program – called PreCheck – to 100 U.S. airports, and millions of passengers have enjoyed faster screening (maybe ‘enjoyed’ isn’t the right word, but better than standing in seemingly endless lines). The TSA has also been getting a lot of questions about PreCheck. Here are some of them, along with some answers.

Travel expert Rick Seaney – how to zip through security:

Does your airport have PreCheck? Find out

How Can I Participate in PreCheck?

There are three ways to get faster security, as of now.

1. Frequent flyers: If you are an elite miles member of the airlines listed below, expect an invitation:

  • Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, United, US Airways and Virgin America. Note: JetBlue and Southwest will be joining the program soon.

2. Trusted travelers: If you join one of the government trusted travelers programs, submit to a “simple background  check” and pay a small fee ($20 per year, good for five years). Learn more about joining one of these programs here.

3. TSA selectees: According to the TSA Blog, “Using the same information that passengers have provided at the time of flight booking for years (name, date of birth, gender), the TSA is also providing certain passengers, even without enrolling in TSA PreCheck, the same expedited screening benefits.” See the entire post here.

Who brought a shrunken head to the airport?

What Info Does the TSA Use and Not Use?

Again, according to the TSA, PreCheck passengers are approved on the basis of a “simple background check” but they do not provide much detail. They were more forthcoming on what they do not do, as follows (the quotes are from the TSA Blog):

  • “We are not expanding the type of information we use – again we rely on the same security information passengers have been required to submit at time of booking for many years.”
  • “We are not using car registrations or employment information.”
  • “We are not using ‘private databases’ – the info we rely on is the same info that passengers have provided for years when they book their flight.”
  • “TSA does not monitor a passenger’s length of stay in any location.”

How to Know You’re Approved

According to the TSA, a passenger’s inclusion in PreCheck is embedded in the bar code of the boarding pass. Also, some airlines (see which one here) will print “TSA PreCheck” on the boarding pass as a reminder.

Two Gotchas to Watch For

Know your airport: Remember, not all airports have PreCheck, and the airports that do have this expedited security program may not have it in every terminal. Learn where to find PreCheck here.

Random screening: Even if you are approved for PreCheck, you could still be pulled out of the line for additional screening. This is probably unlikely, but it could happen and you should be aware of the possibility.


Published: October 23, 2013