A few months ago, I shared the secret, backdoor way of getting into those “fast lanes” at the airport so you can breeze through security.
Many of you who took my advice said it actually put some fun back into air travel (or at least took a lot of the misery out of it).
So, the TSA’s recent decision to open up its “fast lane” program to anyone who wants to apply would seem like a good thing…but here’s why you shouldn’t do it.
First, if you’re unfamiliar, those airport security fast lanes are for members of Pre Check, low-risk travelers defined by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
If you didn’t use my backdoor secret — joining an international traveler program like Global Entry which auto-enrolls you into TSA Pre Check — getting into Pre Check alone used to be a mysterious process.
You either had to be invited by, or apply through, your frequent flier program, but both methods essentially amounted to crossing-your-fingers and waiting indefinitely.
But starting late last year, TSA began aggressively expanding its Pre Check program, allowing you to apply online and at a growing network of in-person enrollment centers. The price is $85 for five years of membership.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is, even if you’re accepted into TSA Pre Check this way, you don’t always get Pre Check clearance (i.e. use of the “fast lane”) for a given flight.
This can really bite you in the butt if you don’t leave enough time to get through the regular security line or if you pack your liquids according to Pre Check’s looser guidelines.
(Always check your boarding pass for the Pre Check logo long before you head to the airport.)
That’s why I stand by my earlier recommendation — instead of joining TSA Pre Check directly, join a program like Global Entry that automatically qualifies you for it.
This isn’t perfect either — in fact, I didn’t get into the Pre Check lane for my flight today — but according to TSA’s press secretary Ross Feinstein, as a member of a “Trusted Traveler” program like Global Entry, you are more likely to be selected for Pre Check on domestic flights.
Global Entry costs $100 for five years (it’s refundable for Amex Platinum members) but I think the better Pre Check odds — not to mention making international travel a breeze — are well worth the extra $15.
Do you have any experience with TSA Pre Check, Global Entry, or other Trusted Traveler programs? Thinking about applying?
Please share your thoughts or read what others are saying below.