TSA Precheck Experience and Info

Signing up for TSA Precheck was a no brainier. As a frequent travel I signed up as soon as I heard about it while I was living in New York City. For a minimal fee, good for 5 years, I was VERY interested in expediting the security check in/go-through process.

How does one get clearance? 

  1. Fill out a form
  2. Make an appointment online or go in to wait in person at a TSA Precheck approved office
  3. Get finger-printed and background check done (at the appointment)
  4. Pay $85 (as of July 2016)
  5. Wait…
  6. Hear back via mail and receive your number for TSA Precheck, aka Known Traveler ID

When you sign up for flights with airlines you then enter the number in your online profile within the airline’s website or when you buy your ticket so the system remembers you, especially for when you check in to a flight. Otherwise it won’t show on your boarding pass.

 TSA precheck advice by Sometimes Home travel blog. Approachable airport tips and info for a mid-size budget.

Here’s some additional Precheck information I’ve learned throughout the years I’ve had it:

You can do the following with TSA Precheck:

  • Keep your shoes, belt and jacket on
  • Keep liquids inside your bag (as in you don’t have to take them out to go through security but they still have to comply with TSA rules)
  • Keep your laptop and iPad in their cases, in your bag
  • Get faster clearance through security on domestic flights. TSA Precheck lanes are always faster and shorter, even at the busiest airports I’ve been to. I once got through a peak time line at LAX security in 5 minutes, breezing by anyone in the “regular” security line.

You cannot do the following with TSA Precheck:

  • Expect to always get TSA Precheck to show and work on your airline ticket. I know – this confuses you as much as it did me. You paid for it, you went through the background check – so why aren’t you ALWAYS able to use it? The first time I experienced this I was flying out of JFK with JetBlue. I checked in online and didn’t see “TSA Precheck” on my boarding pass. Wtf? I called JetBlue immediately panicking JFK’s “normal” security line would be hours long. On my car ride there, JetBlue’s phone support informed me that due to the popularity of TSA Precheck at this busy airport, in particular, it wasn’t guaranteed to show on my ticket. {jaw-dropped} Despite that I paid for it. Despite I’d been pre-checked in regards to my background and such. Yup. So just a head’s up: just because you have it doesn’t mean  you’re always able to use it.
  • Expect it to always be open. Having TSA Precheck lane open at airports at all times means more staff. I’ve had flights in “sleepy towns” past 5pm and the TSA Precheck lane isn’t open. Of course this frustrates me (mostly because I paid for the convenience of leaving my shoes on and computer comfy-cozy in its case) but I understand. Not every airport has the resources to operate it all the time. And usually that means that you’ll get through the regular line relatively quickly at these sleepy airports, during off-peak times, anyway.
  • Expect to get Precheck access in other countries. To be clear, this is an American thing – your background checks and clearance don’t work in Europe, Asia, Australia, etc. You can however use TSA precheck stateside if you’re beginning domestically but flying internationally.
  • Expect all airlines to offer it even if you have it. As per the TSA website, currently the participating airlines include Aeromexico, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, American Airlines, Cape Air, Delta Air Lines, Etihad Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Seaborne Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin America and WestJet. (Note Frontier is not a participant.)

Do I think it’s worth it? If you travel a lot, yes. The cost covers your Known Traveller Number (KTN) for 5 years. Though it’s certainly presented me with frustration when precheck lines aren’t open or the precheck approval doesn’t show on my plane ticket (I’m looking at you, JFK airport!) the amount of time it’s saved me over the past few years has been valuable.

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TSA precheck advice by Sometimes Home travel blog. Approachable airport tips and info for a mid-size budget.

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2 Comments

  1. August 24, 2016 / 5:47 pm

    More thoughts: Getting Global Entry System is about $140 and includes pre-check.

    So.. you get super fast entry INTO airports and EXTREMELY fast entry OUT of airports when coming home from abroad.

    Also, I had the same issues with my precheck not showing on my ticket, and you can just go up to the check in counter and give them your number and they’ll print you a new ticket.

    • admin
      August 27, 2016 / 1:43 am

      YES! I decided next time, when I have to renew, I’m going to do Global Entry for that exact reason. I tried to go up to the counter once and they said they couldn’t do it – maybe it depends on the airline? Always worth a try though! Thanks, Phil!!!

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