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TSA Expands Expedited Security to General Public

PreCheck is now more inclusive than ever. On Friday, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that its expedited-security program, which was previously accessible to a select group of qualified travelers, will be open to all—that is, all who are willing to pay an $85 application fee and submit to a very thorough screening process.

For now, travelers eligible for PreCheck must have either a special invitation from an airline or membership in Trusted Traveler programs like Global Entry or NEXUS (these can cost as much as $100). But starting this fall, all U.S. travelers will be able to pay an $85 fee and apply for expedited security.

The considerable expansion of PreCheck is a good sign for the U.S. airport security system as a whole, which could see improvements in speed and performance if the program takes off. In a press release from the agency, TSA Administrator John S. Pistole said, “PreCheck enables us to focus on the travelers we know the least about, adding efficiency and effectiveness to the screening process.” The assumption is that the agency can better focus on possible threats passing through airport security (those travelers about which the least is known) if a greater number of flyers has already been carefully screened.

There is, however, a small catch. Although flyers will be able to apply online, they must also show up at a designated enrollment site in order to complete the process by submitting fingerprints and identification. At first, there will only be two enrollment sites, located at Washington Dulles Airport and Indianapolis International Airport. This does not bode well for West Coast flyers. The TSA says it plans to add more enrollment sites in the future, although it hasn’t released any further details about where or when.

Adding more airports with expedited-security lanes is also on the TSA’s to-do list. As it stands, PreCheck is available at 40 airports across the U.S.; travelers enrolled in PreCheck can enjoy access to faster security lines at these locations. Additionally, PreCheck members can usually leave their shoes, belts, and coats on, and aren’t required to remove laptops from bags. That zip-top baggie of liquids can stay in the suitcase, too.

To join, travelers will be required to pay a one-time $85 application fee; after that initial fee, there are no other membership costs to worry about for five years. PreCheck members must also undergo some pretty intensive serious pre-screening procedures: background check, fingerprints, etc. It’s a clear swap of privacy for trust.

In your opinion, is it worth it? Do you plan to join PreCheck?

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