Airport Red Carpet Treatment Offers Invitation-Only Security for Elite Fliers

The airport is not partial. Not since 9/11. Not even for first class travelers. As if the disagreeable rules at security check were not enough – remove shoes, belts, jackets, wallets, computers, toiletries – the long queues can strike fear into the hearts of even the most hardened traveler. But there is a glimmer of hope for luxury travel. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been testing fast-track screenings for select passengers since 4 October 2011.

The initial TSA PreCheck screenings have improved passenger experience considerably. Apparently, unending security check time has been cut down to less than a minute. Compare that with the 15 to 20 minutes that you would have to waste in the regular queues. More importantly, the fast-track screening process allows fliers to get through security with their dignity intact. The banner says, “Keep those shoes on. You busy traveler, you.”

The Red Carpet Treatment

TSA PreCheck is still a pilot program. Currently, the service is available only to frequent fliers on Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, as well as American citizens enrolled in any of three “trusted traveler” programs of the US government. As of now, the TSA PreCheck is carried out at a single invitation-only security lane each at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport as well as at the airports in Miami, Atlanta and Detroit.

Apparently, three more airports will be brought under its ambit. The McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas will join the club in December 2011, providing the TSA PreCheck option to passengers of both Delta and American Airlines. Early 2012 will see the arrival of the Minneapolis airport and the Los Angeles International Airport. The former will offer expedited screenings to select Delta fliers, while the latter indulges American Airlines passengers.

Eventually, there are plans to involve other commercial carriers as well. So passengers attached to the frequent flier programs of carriers like Southwest Airlines, Alaska Air and JetBlue Airways among others, can look forward to further extensions.

Who Is Eligible?

Some 2,000 passengers out of a total of 1.7 million on the domestic air travel circuit are currently availing of TSA PreCheck. The idea is to extend the privileges of luxury travel to the security check queues. Frequent fliers listed on airlines loyalty programs are among the first to feel the love. This is because TSA can easily access the personal details of the fliers from the airlines. However, fliers must first provide permission to the airlines to share their details with the TSA. However, additional screenings remain a possibility if required. Some 280,000 fliers have already opted for the free edition of TSA PreCheck.

Fliers who are not enrolled on the loyalty programs of Delta or American can also get a piece of the cake via the 2008 Global Entry Program. Simply pay $100 for five years, fill in a detailed questionnaire online and undergo an interview with an agent from Customs and Border Protection. Global Entry fliers experience the benefits of luxury travel at the airport level. They can skip immigration queues at 20 American airports. The remaining process involves only a few minutes. Enrolling for the TSA PreCheck would further cut down on their travel screening time.

Yes, TSA PreCheck is extending luxury travel benefits to the airport experience. We can safely expect the enrollment queues to increase in the coming days.

Via: Wall Street Journal

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