TSA Airport Security: Quicker, Easier Screening for the Young, Old, or Rich

Time for a TSA update and here’s the news: certain groups get certain airport security privileges. Where do you fit in, and what can you do for a better security checkpoint experience if you don’t make the cut?

Who’d You Rather? TSA vs. Private Screeners

Which Groups Get Faster, Easier Security at Airports

1. Some Older Flyers: Starting this week, the TSA implemented a pilot program at four airports with relaxed screening for travelers aged 75 and older.  They get to keep their shoes and jackets on, and can pass through body scan machines multiple times without being automatically patted-down if the screener detects a scan anomaly.

  • Which airports: Right now, this pilot is limited to Chicago O’Hare, Denver, Orlando and Portland, Oregon. If it’s the success I think it will be, watch for it to expand quickly.

[Keep reading for more, below]

2. All Younger Flyers: Since last fall, children aged 12 and under have been receiving similar perks at security including keeping their shoes on.

  • Which airports: All U.S. airports

TSA PreCheck: Free or Pay a Fee?

3. Some Frequent Flyers: This free PreCheck express security pilot initiative is open to elite members of American or Delta miles programs – by invitation only – and will soon expand to include elites of Alaska, United and US Airways. The PreCheck experience allows travelers to keep shoes, belts and jacket on, plus laptops and liquid bags can stay in cases and carry-ons.

  • Which airports: More than 35 by the end of 2012. Current participants include several large hubs and smaller airports. See the complete list here.

4. Some Flyers Willing to Pay: If you pay the $100 application fee for one of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s trusted traveler programs (U.S. citizens only), you too can get the PreCheck experience.

Quicker Security Not Guaranteed

The TSA says there will always be random security checks, even for the elite groups mentioned above meaning pat-downs and other measures could still be employed on any flyer.

How to Travel Light: Packing Tips

Quicker Security Tips for the Rest of Us

If you don’t qualify for any of the programs above, follow the tips below and shave off a little time in line:

Know the rules: Make sure all liquids meet the regulation size of 3.4 ounces, and don’t carry anything that could be construed as a potential weapon.

Be prepared: Get shoes off, laptops out of cases and Ziplocs out of carryons before you get to the conveyor belt.

Be neat: Tie up electronics cords in a neat bundle so screeners won’t open up your bags after seeing all those loose wires.

More from Rick Seaney:

Good News at Airport Security

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Published: March 20, 2012