If you are a frequent traveler, you are probably wondering how in the world you can get through airport lines faster and with less frustration. Line time is one of the things that irks fliers the most. In fact, a too-long airport line experience can start a vacation or business trip on the wrong foot entirely. Here are a few things to know about deciding between TSA PreCheck and the equally popular Global Entry for Trusted Travelers program.
What is TSA screening, and why do we have to deal with it?
The Transportation Security Administration is part of a bigger government entity known as the Department of Homeland Security. The whole shebang was devised in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2011.
Fifteen years ago, many thousands of people were killed when several in-flight aircraft were commandeered by madmen wielding very rudimentary weapons. In one day, a series of massive airplanes slammed into skyscrapers, the Pentagon, and a grassy field in Pennsylvania. People wondered how it happened, and so did the U.S. Government.
In response to the 9/11 attacks, a new government agency was created. Since that terrible time, the so-called ‘Patriot Act’ defines harsh infringements on the freedoms that most Americans used to take for granted. Today, getting aboard an aircraft is more difficult than it’s ever been, due to exponentially increased security measures. America offers equal opportunity for all, so every person who boards a commercial aircraft in the United States is now required to submit to a range of security checks.
What about disabled travelers?
The TSA explains that every flier, regardless of medical condition or disability, must undergo checkpoint security when asked to do so. To expedite the screening process, disabled individuals and their caretakers may print a TSA Notification Card to present at a checkpoint. By signing the card, the disabled passenger promises that they understand their right to an equivalent level of security screening that may be done in private. Possession of a signed TSA Notification Card also assures airport security officers that the bearer understands the card does not exempt them from security screening.
What are TSA PreCheck and Global Entry?
Approved TSA PreCheck passengers are not required to remove their shoes or belt. PreCheck passengers may leave their 3-1-1 bag of liquids in their luggage as they move through an airport checkpoint. They are generally allowed to pass through the checkpoint while wearing light a light sweater, jacket, or other outwear. Most major airports now offer PreCheck lines that are separate from general public queues. On the whole, PreCheck lines move exponentially quicker than regular TSA checkpoints.
Passengers need to keep in mind that TSA PreCheck approval is not a guarantee against random and unexpected security screenings that may involve one or more of the aforementioned screening techniques. This randomness is meant to increase the effectiveness of airport security.
The Global Entry Trusted Passenger program was designed to simplify entry into the United States. Travelers who are Global Entry approved are not required to meet with a border agent every time they fly into a U.S. airport. Incoming travelers merely have to find a kiosk at the airport. There, they answer a few fast questions and offer their fingertips for scanning. Once the agent sees the passenger’s receipt, the traveler is free to exit the passport control area.
Great detail about global entry is available at the TSA website. The agency notes that persons who qualify for Global Entry generally have a much easier time being approved for the TSA PreCheck program. They are two separate entities, but work together wonderfully for travelers who wish to expedite their experience as an aircraft passenger.
Where to use Global Entry and PreCheck
Not all airlines accept TSA PreCheck or Global Entry and require passengers to undergo the same rigorous security screenings as anyone else. At the time of this writing, airlines that do accept these time-saving memberships include AeroMexico, Delta, Air Canada, Virgin America, Alaska Airlines, American, Etihad, Hawaiian Airlines, Jet Blue, Southwest, Sun Country, United Airlines, and WestJet.
If you have a heart to travel, please don’t let TSA security checkpoints wreck your vacation. Yes, they can be a hassle, but you don’t have to let them stymie your family travel plans. Simply be aware of the rules and follow them ‘to a T.’ Know what you can and cannot take on an airplane and apply for TSA PreCheck if you do a lot of traveling. International travelers may want to obtain a Global Entry pass, as well.
Erin Nicholson writes about travel, from saving money on flights to getting through the airport quickly and without the stress. She is a frequent traveler for business as well as personal travel and keen to share her top tips with others.