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TSA’s Expanded PreCheck Program Set to Change Airport Security

Soon you may no longer have to shuffle shoeless through the metal detector while holding up your pants. A new, faster screening program is shaking up airport security as we know it, possibly allowing select travelers to stay fully dressed—belt, shoes, and all—while passing through the security lane.

PreCheck, an expedited passenger-screening program, will expand to 28 additional U.S. airports this year, according to a press release on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website. PreCheck is a program that permits prescreened flyers to go through a separate, faster security line that may not involve the removal of shoes, jacket, belt, etc. Travelers who’ve joined the program, which is currently only available at seven test hubs, will soon be able to hustle through a streamlined security queue at 35 domestic airports. Currently, more than 336,000 people are members of PreCheck.

The program is free, although for now, it’s only available to travelers flying with Delta or American at those seven select airports (Dallas, Miami, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Detroit). The TSA hopes to loop additional airlines into the program as it sets up PreCheck in more airports this year.

Those who fly frequently with participating airlines, as well as members of Trusted Traveler programs such as Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS, are eligible to sign up. Previously, American and Delta sent out emails to frequent flyers that contained instructions on signing up for the program, so it’s safe to assume that your preferred airline will issue an email announcement with details on joining if it gets onboard the PreCheck program. United, US, and Alaska plan to participate in PreCheck by the end of 2012.

Another way to join is by visiting the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website and signing up for a Trusted Traveler program. You will have to go through an initial screening process and background check. Once approved, you’ll receive a special barcode on your boarding pass that will give you access to separate PreCheck boarding lanes at participating airports.

Just how much time will this save you? The TSA is tight-lipped about the exact details of the PreCheck process. According to the agency’s website, “no individual will be guaranteed expedited screening in order to retain a certain element of randomness to prevent terrorists from gaming the system.” So no promises. But it’s probable you’ll face a shorter line, as the bulk of passengers going through security won’t belong to the program.

Moreover, you may be able to wear your shoes throughout the airport screening process … and your coat, belt, and jacket, too. With a tinge of ambiguity, the TSA states that some travelers might get to keep all their clothes on, while leaving laptops and plastic baggies inside carry-on bags as well.

Do you plan to sign up for PreCheck?

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