Get Your Travel Savvy On

TSA PreCheck takes some of the hassle out of the travel experience.

By: Kim Bridger-Hunt

We live in a time when traveling through our nation’s airports has taken on a life of its own. Gone are the days when you could show up 20 minutes before your scheduled flight, check a bag, run to your gate and get on the plane. Security requirements add to the time we spend in airports, and there’s no way around it. But there is a way to take some of the hassle out of your experience at TSA Security Checkpoints.

TSA PreCheck began back in 2011, and until recently, I never seriously considered enrolling in it. I wasn’t alone. It’s estimated that fewer than four million people have enrolled in the program. That number is much lower than what was targeted. According to the TSA’s website, the agency would like to get 25 million people enrolled in PreCheck.

It’s hard to know exactly why enrollment has not met expectations. It’s possible that people are not getting the information they need to fully understand the process or benefits of PreCheck. It’s also possible that occasional travelers simply don’t think it’s worth the time and money to pursue it. Even after reading about it and talking to people who had enrolled, I had reached the conclusion some time ago that it was something I could live without.

Time to reconsider?
I don’t travel often. And I can count on one hand the times when I have experienced TSA lines that were really long. It generally happens at the larger airports that are handling literally thousands of travelers per hour. It can be frustrating, and it can certainly add to the already hectic reality of air travel these days.

TSA PreCheck won’t alleviate all of your travel stresses – but it can certainly come in handy when you’re traveling from busy airports at peak travel times. PreCheck allows you to bypass some of the traditional security motions (like taking off your jacket and shoes and taking your computer out of your carry-on). At most airports, there is a separate PreCheck entrance that, in part, because of low enrollment, rarely has a line and so is much faster than the standard wait times.

I gave in to PreCheck recently after deciding that I’d rather take steps to avoid the long lines than find myself hung up in one of them someday. I found that the process of applying for TSA PreCheck is surprisingly simple.

Because it requires fingerprinting, applicants must make an appointment and show up at their chosen time and location. For me, the fingerprinting appointment took no more than 10 minutes. It was during this appointment that I paid my $85. If you’re approved for PreCheck, that fee gives you five years of expedited TSA screening at airports all over the nation.

The process went something like this:
• I pulled up the application on tsa.gov and filled it out.

• While still online, I chose a location for fingerprinting and made an appointment (for two days later) at Identgo, which is located in Corpus Christi at Greenwood and SPID.

• I showed up at my designated time with my approved form of I.D., answered some questions, got fingerprinted and paid the $85 fee.

• I waited to receive my Known Traveler Number (KTN), which will be used when booking future trips on participating airlines.

PreCheck vs. Global Entry
There has been some confusion over PreCheck and other Trusted Traveler Programs like Global Entry. Global Entry is a different, but similar process that when completed, will allow international travelers to again by pass long lines at Customs when returning to the United States from other countries. For those who take international trips frequently, Global Entry is the way to go.

And here’s the great news: When you apply, pay $100 and receive Global Entry status, you are automatically enrolled in TSA PreCheck. The reverse, however, is not true. If you enroll in PreCheck and later decide that you want Global Entry, you will have to apply for it and pay the $100 separately. So, if you want both, apply for Global Entry and get both of them for $100.

PreCheck at CCIA
Corpus Christi International Airport (CCIA) is a PreCheck airport, and during peak travel times, you’ll find the TSA set up to accommodate PreCheckers. It’s at other airports, however, where you will fully appreciate the benefits of expedited screening.

If you would like more information about TSA PreCheck, visit tsa.gov. If you are interested in Global Entry, you can learn more about it by visiting the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website. Both programs will save you time and hassle while traveling.

Kim Bridger-Hunt is the marketing manager at Corpus Christi International Airport. For more information, you may contact her at kimb@cctexas.com.

Photos courtesy of CCIA

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