IT consultant Jim Matson flies 60 to 80 times a year for business and, most of the time, he happily avoids the partial strip-down required of travelers at airport security lines.
Matson keeps his shoes on and his laptop packed because he’s among the half-million-and-growing number of travelers who qualify for expedited security checks.
“What’s there not to like?” Matson said of the program. “It saves you tons of time.”
The Columbus, Ohio, consultant was breezing through security lanes Wednesday at Indianapolis International Airport. No one else was in line and Matson had the baggage-check area all to himself. And his running shoes stayed right on his feet the whole time.
Wednesday was a milestone day of sorts for the Transportation Security Administration. Just nine months after rolling out the PreCheck program for the public, the TSA said it hit the 500,000 mark for enrolled travelers. The TSA also runs separate expedited security programs for military personnel, Department of Defense employees and airline frequent flyers.
The first of 300 PreCheck application offices for the program in the nation opened at Indianapolis International Airport in December. That office in the airport’s civic plaza has stayed busy since, processing an average of 80 applications a day, the TSA said.
At Indianapolis, the portion of air travelers qualifying for expedited security checks in the past year has gone from just a fraction to fully one-third of all fliers.
“I think we’re going to see it grow” even more, with PreCheck topping 1 million enrolled travelers nationally in the months ahead, said Aaron Batt, assistant federal security director for the TSA in Indianapolis. “It’s probably one of the best things our organization did.”
For PreCheck, travelers pay $85 to cover the cost of their FBI background check. It searches for terrorist ties, a criminal record or other issues that would result in a denial. The fee is good for five years.
PreCheck allows travelers to go through separate security check lanes at 119 airports without stripping off their shoes, belt or light outerwear, or removing their laptop or small-sized liquids from their luggage.
The expedited security check programs benefit regular travelers as well, because the lanes at regular security screening areas aren’t as busy, said Mark Howell, a TSA spokesman.
PreCheck travelers still occasionally endure random full screenings by TSA staffers, Howell said.
“We can’t be predictable,” he said. “The enemy changes (tactics) all the time.”