It's more of a hassle, but travelers who don't have upper-tier frequent flyer status, can get into TSA precheck through U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler programs.
What do you do if you are waiting for an airline invitation to join the TSA Precheck program for expedited security screening at the airport, and the email never arrives?
Don’t despair. There are other ways to get in with the road warrior in-crowd at airport security lanes, but it will cost you $100 and require and in-person interview.
There are two ways to get into the program: an invitation from your airline because of your frequent flyer status, or signing up for one of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler programs, including Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI.
If you have SkyMiles Medallion status at Delta, for example, you are likely to receive an invitation to opt into the Precheck program, although the TSA establishes the precise parameters of who gets in and who doesn’t, and the agency and airlines aren’t sharing the details.
Passengers receiving email invitations can opt in by updating their airline profile with their Secure Flight passenger data, and then the airline transmits the reservation information to the TSA’s Secure Flight system.
Barcodes to get clearance
Whether passengers check in online to get their boarding passes or receive them at the airport, the Precheck data are embedded into their barcodes. TSA document checkers at the airport scan the barcodes, and direct precheck passengers for expedited screening.
The TSA, however, can optionally require even precheck members to undergo more rigorous screening.
U.S. citizens are also eligible for Precheck if they are members of the CBP’s Global Entry, NEXUS or SENTRI programs.
Unlike with the invitations from airlines to their elite travelers, to get into the CBP Trusted Traveler programs there is no minimum number of trips to meet eligibility requirements.
To apply, travelers have to submit an online application through the Global Online Enrollment System, and pay a nonrefundable $100 application fee. After a review process, travelers can schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center.
If travelers pass muster during a CPB interview, after providing proper ID, they get their photos taken and fingerprints scanned.
There are a variety of criteria for getting rejected from the program, including the possibility that there is intelligence that the traveler is not a low security risk or is the subject of an ongoing investigation.
People who get into these Trusted Traveler programs recieve a unique PASS ID and enter it into the “known traveler number” field when booking an airline reservation or enter it into their airline frequent flyer profile.
The TSA precheck program is operational for frequent flyers at 25 airports, with participation from Alaska, American, Delta, United and US Airways.
TSA spokesperson Ann Davis says the agency hopes to expand Precheck to 35 airports by the end of 2012.
The program is only available for domestic flights.
The airlines say they hope to expand the ranks of eligible participants soon.