If you’ve been paying attention to my photography and posts you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been doing a fair amount of traveling recently. Between my west coast vacation and a couple of trips from New England to Florida. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in airports as a passenger. Typically, playing the role of airport administrator or pilot, I don’t often experience airports as the end user, but I do enjoy the experience of air travel, likely unlike many others. Plus, now that I’m living in Florida, air travel is really the only way to visit home!
My trips included:
BOS – LAX – BOS (Boston, MA to Los Angeles, CA & back)
PVD – ATL – MCO – ATL – PVD (Providence, RI to Orlando, FL, through Atlanta, GA & back)
PVD – DTW – MCO – ATL – PVD (Providence, RI to Orlando, FL through Detriot, MI, with a stop at Atlanta, GA on the way back)
I was surprised that even when arriving at the airport more than 2 hours early for my BOS – LAX flight, I walked up to the gate at boarding time… I decided after my return experience at LAX, that I needed to apply for TSA PreCheck.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) offers PreCheck as a way for known travelers to “fly by” (excuse the pun) the long security lines and have a more enjoyable and quicker security experience. This is based on the traveler having previously completed a more thorough security screening in the form of a background check. Of course, an applicant needs ot have a clean record and there are a number of items which are checked, all of which can be found on the TSA website.
Let me clarify that I am all for over-the-top security when I travel, I believe that more is better and I’m okay with being inconvenienced if it means I’ll be safe. However, like everyone, as I approach the TSA lines I survey the crowd… Just like Goeorge Clooney’s character in the movies Up In the Air, he looks for the line with the business travelers as opposed to parents traveling with young children, as an example.
Unfortunately, my first trip from Providence to Orlando, came up too fast for me to apply for PreCheck, but with an early morning departure from PVD, the wait at security was minimal and returning through Orlando, was busy with a wait, but nothing too extraordinary. I was down there interviewing for a job, so worrying about waiting around an airport after, what I felt was a great interview certainly wasn’t a problem for me.
Immediately upon returning from that trip I visited the TSA website to learn more about the PreCheck program. It seemed pretty straightforward, complete an online application, schedule an appointment for ID verification and finger printing and wait 30-45 days while the investigate me.
I completed my online application and promptly scheduled an appointment, before quickly realizing after submitting the appointment time of my choosing that I had accidently double booked myself for the time. No worries… The appointment confirmation email included a link with easy instructions for changing my appointment time, which I did with very little hassle.
The ID verification and finger printing is completed by a third party organization and the office I visited was very informational and helpful. The service provider was ready for me at my appointment time and the whole thing couldn’t have lasted more than 30 minutes from arrival to being out of the door.
After a week and a half later I visited the TSA website and used the application number from my initial online application to see if my status was updated. To my surprised I found a message saying that I had passed the background check and was assigned a known traveler number.
The Known Traveler Number (KTN) is used by most major airlines (but not all), simply enter it while booking your tickets or into an “app” or website profile for your regular airline of use and the TSA PreCheck logo will appear on our boarding pass, allowing you to by pass the regular security line. In addition, there is no need to remove your belt, take you computer out of your bag or take your shoes off!
My second trip to Florida was to find a place to live in preparation for starting my new job as the Aviation Manager for America’s Seaplane City, Tavares, Florida. I was anxious to try out my new PreCheck status. In advance of booking my airfare for the trip I added my KTN to my delta.com profile. I booked the tickets as I normally would and upon arriving at the airport and printing my boarding pass I found the PreCheck symbol printed directly on the pass. I could use my phone with the Delta app, but I like paper boarding passes, I still miss the old firmer paper boarding pass, but that’s another story…
TF Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island is typically one of the easiest and best airports for travelers anyways, but traveling through Green with PreCheck is even better! I arrived a little early for my flight and was through security in a flash. Essentially, it is like “the old days,” put your bag through a scanner and walk through a metal detector… Very simple! By submitting to substantial background checks at a prior time, I am able to save time at the airport on the day of my trip.
My return trip had me pass through security at the Orlando International Airport, a much larger and busier airport than Providence. I presented my boarding passes and ID to the TSA representative at the desk and was allowed to proceed down the special express PreCheck lane.
I had put everything into my bag but remained in my suit jacket, belt and shoes. I walked through the metal detector and got a beep, I had been chosen for random check. I was quickly moved over to the normal scanner and crossing my hands above my head for the scanner. The process takes 5 second, maybe… After exiting the TSA inspector patted down my shoulder and upper arm. I offered to remove my jacket but they were satisfied with their inspection.
Even with the random screening, the PreCheck was still much quicker than regular security. If you travel frequently, I highly recommend enrolling in the program. I’m all for safety and security and I may be one of the few people who is okay with more intense screening, I like safety after all. But, for known travelers who travel frequently, PreCheck is a great asset!
I must admit that I’m looking forward to utilizing the PreCheck “fast lane” when I travel home for Christmas!
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9