Have you ever noticed -- as you're shuffling back and forth through the airport security line -- some people get to zip through a special, "fast lane," just like the airline crew members?
Today I'm going to tell you how you can do this, too, and, no, you don't need a first-class ticket or a job at Jamba Juice across from Gate 34.
The only thing you need is to be enrolled in "Pre Check," the TSA's free pre-screening program that gives you access to this speedy security lane, one that doesn't require removing your shoes, belt, laptop, jacket, and compliant liquids/gels.
The air travel experts I know absolutely love it. They say it's like the old days when you waltzed right through "security."
Unfortunately, you can't simply enroll in TSA Pre Check. It's effectively by "invitation only."
However, I know the secret to getting in right away, and soon, you will, too.
When the program launched in 2011, the only way in was to be invited by your airline (Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, United, US Airways, Virgin America), but aside from being a member of its frequent flyer program, the criteria for selection was, and still is, very black box-y.
Some airlines now let you apply for consideration, but there's no evidence that this has any effect on the likelihood or timing of getting in. In fact, you'll never hear back about your application from your airline or TSA.
That's why this secret is so valuable -- it's like sneaking onto Augusta National through the back gate.
Here it is:
Whether you travel internationally or not, apply for Global Entry, SENTRI, or NEXUS, which are the "trusted traveler" programs run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Why? Because acceptance into one of these programs automatically qualifies you for Pre Check.
Global Entry, the one I used, requires you to complete an online application. Once accepted, you then attend an interview at a Customs and Border Patrol "enrollment center" (located at airports nationwide).
It costs $100, but certain premium credit cards (American Express Platinum, for one) and elite-level frequent flyers programs will refund or otherwise compensate you for the fee. It's that simple.
Even if you wind up paying the fee yourself, it's worth it.
Said one 100,000 miles-per-year flyer in the Wall Street Journal:
"It cuts security screening down to about 30 seconds."
What's your take on TSA Pre Check? Heard any pros or cons about it? Have you applied or are you considering it?
Please share your thoughts or read what others are saying below.